So Gordon’s come out against a minimum price per unit because he doesn’t want to penalise the majority of moderate drinkers.
A minimum price per unit would, obviously, increase the price of stronger drinks relative to weaker ones. Beer, especially ale, being the lowest strength drink in the bar on average, would suffer less than other drinks, if at all. Maybe this is why SIBA and CAMRA were both in favour of a minimum price per unit – it would have done beer some good, and helps to underline the fact that ale in particular is not a binge drink.
On the other hand, I’ve read lots of research that suggests price increases don’t deter hardcore drinkers – they’ll compromise on other things instead. To quote (yet again) from The Daily Mash:
Emma Hollis, a wine drinker from Twickenham, said: “If the price of alcohol doubles I will have to rethink my weekly shopping budget. What I can say is that, one way or another, by nine o’clock on a Friday night I am going to be completely and utterly off my tits.”
Maybe Gordon Brown has seen the same research, and that’s where he’s coming from in this decision. Or maybe he bases his decisions on satirical comic news sites.
But it does stick in the craw somewhat. Alcopops and strong cider are currently charged at lower duty rates than beer despite being (a) stronger drinks and (b) the tippled of choice for your bingeing teenager. When the duty rise to offset the VAT reduction in November was applied to most alcoholic drinks, a quiet word from the spirits guys meant that spirits were latterly exempted from this increase. I guess that’s why I agree with CAMRA’s press release today that the government has been hypocritical on the issue.
The government is always keen to attack binge drinking. But to judge it by its actions, you’d think they were more anti-moderate drinking. Yet again they seem to have little clue on how to tackle the problems that exist in drinking, and it’s beer and pubs that get shafted as a result.
Or am I wrong – would a minimum price per unit drive prices up across the board and make beer suffer even more?