Sunday, 15 March 2009

More government madness

Plans for a minimum price for alcohol

The government's top medical adviser has drawn up plans for a minimum price for alcohol which would double the cost of some drinks in England. Under the proposal from Sir Liam Donaldson, it has been reported that no drinks could be sold for less than 50 pence per unit of alcohol they contain. It would mean most bottles of wine could not be sold for less than £4.50.

BBC News 15/03

Of course, as was discussed this morning on the broadcast media, this won't have an enormous impact on those with a steady income and a controlled alcohol habit. The groups which will be hardest hit are those people who are addicted to booze and those with a low or no income. These groups tend to overlap.

Of course there are some major flaws in the logic here. If I travel for about an hour from here I can be in a Calais Hypermarket stocking up on as much booze as the car will carry. Increasing the differential between UK prices and those on the mainland of Europe is a great was of helping the ferry services and the French economy. As with other drugs those who have a real addiction will turn to illegal means to acquire the means with which to buy their drug of choice - is there any reason to believe that alcohol is any different in this regard?

One of the declared target groups are younger people who binge drink but many of these people have the highest disposable income;first job, living with parents, no mortgage, etc. One of the target groups not explicitly declared is made up of those homeless people who drink cheap cider - they are price-sensitive but without additional support to deal with a wide-range of problems, sometimes including mental health issues, simply hiking the price of White Lightening isn't sorting anything out at all.

Another worrying strand is that this isn't a tax. The government are considering instructing private companies on their charging policies but the government will not get any of the money raised by this policy should it be introduced. This really is the nanny state gone mad.

Nobody doubts that alcohol is a dangerous drug and the damage caused by misusing it can be devastating but this isn't the correct way of dealing with the issues. No personal agenda here - I earn a reasonable whack and if I want a drink I might grumble about the price but I can afford the money. If I decided to binge drink I could still afford it (In fact since I stopped smoking I have a good deal more disposable income). I suppose this also points to the stupidity of this plan - it'll just be the middle-class who can afford to go on getting wrecked but they will keep on drinking regardless of what Liam thinks happens behind the net curtains.

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