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There’s always a contradiction when governments make policy on our vices. On the one hand they want us to stop doing them because they are health and socially damaging and so expensive in the long term but on the other had they miss the vast taxation they make from them so don’t go the whole hog to ban them. Blair and Brown pushed the green agenda with higher fuel taxes and congestion charges; we thought to get us out of our cars and onto public transport. But once we parked up and took the bus and train they trebled those fares and so forced many back into cars, generating that juicy petrol revenue. When Ken Livingstone introduced the congestion charge he was taken back that it actually worked, so much so that it lost money, meaning the incoming Boris Johnson had to extend the zone to get the money back. Drivers called their bluff and didn’t drive into the city, not the point at all for our tax grabbing London mayors. This feeling is backed up by the greedy parking warden legions we all suffer.
Tax that booze!
With this minimum alcohol pricing strategy that tax ethos will be at the heart of it for me, pushing people away from supermarkets and off-licenses and back into pubs and clubs paying huge tax on their booze there. A 40p can of own brand strong cider generates the Treasury about 2p where as pint of Strongbow in the pub will be pushing £4:00 and makes them about three £3:00 in tax. To put it cynically the government is not happy that the supermarkets are taking an increasing slice of their revenue through lost - leader booze sales.
When Labor bought in the smoking ban the upside was a big drop in heart attacks and the downside was the loss of thousands of jobs in the pub and restaurant trade, the same trade that were told they would get the lost trade money back though the increased hours from the new boozing laws, another contradiction. The biggest irony with that was the people the smoking ban law was bought into protect were people like the employees of pubs and bars, the people most likely to smoke at work. The extended booze laws had similar contradictions, pub landlords and doctors the most likely to be alcoholics in Britain.
These new vice laws are partly about the government accepting the working-class are not able to moderate themselves on those vices and so laws needed to curb their access, 70% of all smokers still drawn from the lower classes and most violent drinkers imprisoned also drawn from the blue-collar class. The middle-class drink just as much but it’s done discreetly at home or riotously at university with their peers and so less violence and expense. Alas, the lower orders tend to be more violent and unhealthy through booze, ciggy and chippy time and so legislation needed, Glasgow the boozing capital of Western Europe, why the 50p per unit price has been bought in there and why they have cut the legal level of alcohol in your blood behind the wheel north of the border.
I don’t think the price hikes will cut the number of drunks on a Saturday night that fill the hospitals and police vans but I do feel it will have an effect on the heavy drinkers. If Alex Salmond wants Scotland to go it alone he will have to cut that huge health and welfare bill that booze abuse is allowed to fester in. The hardcore alcoholics will always get the drink they need whatever the cost and either steel it or save money elsewhere to get it. What the 50p per unit price will see is an increase in bootleg liquor that the Easter Europeans love to make and those white van booze cruises over the Scottish border to places like Carlisle, those vulgar alcohol hypermarkets springing up in places like Longtown and Berwick. The price hike is going to be huge, the average price of 70cls of spirits up to 40% higher. The supermarkets will enjoy more profits from it, if consumption doesn’t fall, but the real earn here is for the Treasury as it will push people back into Scottish pubs, 28% less of those in the last five years due to the smoking ban.
Big business this booze....
Someone who is very unhappy about this is the Scottish whisky industry, a big exporter up north. Their sensible customers will obviously cut back on purchases in recession if booze rises by one third and so jobs will go and smaller distilleries will follow the pub trade out of business. They are already threatening legal action and the European Court ready to back them up on fair trade laws, set prices meaning they have a distinct disadvantage on the common market in tough times. But the booze industry, like the tobacco one, know how bad their product is for people and so have to temper their dissent or on go the public health warning stickers to their products to hurt sales even more.
I'm all for the rise!
But alcohol and smoking are bad for you and any cut in consumptions by heavy users is good news, something they would agree with, so yours truly fully supporting the ban. I would rather pay more for a pint to cut the town centre yobbery than have more police ready to wade in. Abuse of things you enjoy is most of the National Health spend, booze about 12%, fags around 8% and poor diet double that. Old people are by far the biggest spend on the NHS and the healthier they are the longer they live and so the more chance of getting dementia or cancer and so up goes the bill again, why the government need more taxes from booze and petrol, the contradiction all governments face.
One of the biggest concerns is the loss of jobs in the already squeezed drinks industry - Generally, you've dealt with quite a few factors here within the 1,000 word limit. In regards to content 10/10 for your debate, even though I don't agree with some of your assumptions.
sandemp 29.05.2012 14:14
Can you back up your figures on taxation? Because I was under the impression that the tax on alcohol does NOT depend on where it is bought, and rather than the government taking a cut in duty it is the supermarkets that take a cut in profits per unit sold (which is then made up with volume sales).
a-true-ben 29.05.2012 10:16
I'm not convinced it will force people into pubs, since the alcohol can't be cheaper there and landlords are still under a duty to police people's drinking. So I think the hardcore alcoholics will continue to drink at home, maybe even home brew.