So, Scotland set poised to introduce a minimum retail (I am assuming it is only retail?) price of alcohol of 50p a unit (already increased from a previously proposed 45p).
Now, as pubs retail alcohol at well over the minimum pricing level* this policy, should it be introduced in England, should give us responsible pub-goers no concern whatsoever, right? WRONG! Be afraid. Be very afraid!
Regardless of the for-and-against arguments of minimum pricing, here are some thoughts from a publican about it:
Although pubs are being hit hard by cheap supermarket booze, this policy will not make a jot of difference to the struggling landlord;
1) The price of 50p a unit is not a deterrent to people pre-loading and the price difference between supermarket and pubs will still be enormous.
2) It will not be a deterrent to hardened drinkers and alcoholics; If beer was £10 a pint, they would find the money from somewhere, the same as drug addicts do. Crime would possibly increase to fund their drinking (based on no facts, probably the same as the estimated health and welfare benefits** that would result by the introduction of this policy).
3) Alcohol will not cost any more to produce than it does now. Assuming the minimum unit price is introduced at retail level (not imposed on the producers), where is the extra revenue going to go? Yep, into the supermarket’s pockets so that they will get even richer, thank-you very much. Estimates of a £125 million*** windfall going to off-sales retailers have been mentioned in the press.
4) Minimum pricing is not a targeted policy and will affect everyone; It is the vast minority of people who buy to pre-load prior to a binge session. What about poor Grandad Albert who just wants a six-pack to go with his barbecue on a nice sunny afternoon? Why should he dip out as a responsible, occasional drinker? The words walnut and sledgehammer spring to mind.
Here’s a couple of radical ideas, shoot me down if you wish…
A) Stop all supermarket and cheap outlet stores from selling alcohol and hand that responsibility back to where it belongs… the pub. This would automatically, at a stroke:
a) increase the price to the average consumer without the need for a minimum pricing policy.
b) save the decimated pub industry by directing drinkers back into pubs.
c) bring drinkers back into a supervised environment where their intake can be monitored and moderated.
B) Obviously, A, above, ain’t gonna happen. So how about taking the estimated £125 million windfall mentioned above off the supermarkets and share it out between the struggling landlords up and down the country.
C) Obviously, B, above ain’t gonna happen. So how about REDUCING the price of alcohol in pubs so that we have at least some kind of parity with the supermarkets (nobody is unreasonable enough to expect pub prices to be as cheap as supermarkets). This could be done by reducing VAT in the hospitality sector to 5% (sign the petition here), as it has been in parts of Europe. This isn’t going to be a massive difference but hey! Every little helps (see what I did there?).
But going back to the headline of this article, this is why all beer drinkers should reject minimum pricing:
The price of 50p per unit of alcohol makes absolutely no difference to the responsible pub-going beer drinker today. But once the government introduces minimum pricing, what’s to stop them next year increasing that to 70p a unit? Then, the year after, £1.00. Then automatically +20p a unit year-on-year? Sounds familiar?
The treasury already takes over £1 in tax from your pint. DON’T LET THEM TAKE ANY MORE!
A pint of 4% bitter currently retails at around £2.90
4% = 2.27 units x 50p = £1.14 pint.
**In 2010, Researchers at ScHARR, the School of Health and Related Research (although you can’t read their report unless you make a payment. Hmmm…) said that a minimum pricing level of 45p would have saved 50 lives in the first year, and 225 lives a year within a decade. Apparently this has now increased to 50p to have the same effect.
***Estimated £125m windfall as reported on BBC website article.