Monday 26 March 2012

200% proof positive

There’s a wonderfully splenetic attack on minimum alcohol pricing by Tim Worstall on the website of the Adam Smith Institute:

Minimum alcohol pricing is doing something that almost certainly shouldn't be done and then compounding the error by doing it in the most cackhanded way possible and illegally to boot. Just what is it that they teach in PPE these days?
Thinking about it further, it’s clear that the biggest losers from this will be the producers and drinkers of cheap cider. Personally I won’t miss the 3-litre bottle of 5.3% stuff for £3.49 on the shelves of Tesco and ASDA, but if the price goes up to £6.36 then some poor sods will be out of a job, and some other poor sods deprived of a cheap soothing tipple.

And how much does scrumpy sell for at the farm gate in the West Country nowadays? Indeed, does the farmer even know how strong it is? If it’s 8%, a pint will cost £1.82, which I suspect is rather more than the current price.

There will be an interesting relationship between minimum price, duty and production cost, the precise implications of which are rather difficult to even guess at, and which may vary each time the duty escalator is applied.

Taking the post-budget duty rates, the current level of duty+VAT for one unit of alcohol for each product category is:
  • Spirits 32.2p
  • Beer (normal strength) 23.4p
  • Wine (13% ABV) 23.4p
  • Cider (5.3% ABV) 8.5p
(Wine and cider are taxed at a flat rate over the main strength band, not per unit of alcohol)

So, in a sense, there’s more “headroom” to build in production quality in cider than for any other drink.

Edit: there’s a petition against minimum alcohol pricing here.


  1. Alcohol Prohibition the first attack has arrived!

  2. When drinking becomes the habit of a minority, drinkers can expect the same treatment as smokers.

    Prohibition for the poor will become prohibition for the middle class pong drinker.

    1. Quite so and, as I've said before, stigmatising alcohol will disproportionately affect out-of-the-house drinking.

  3. We'll have to wait and see, but I suspect that our hope, that it may turn out to be illegal, is sadly clutching at straws in the ocean. I know a lot of the political bloggers keep on banging about it being so, but very few of them are experts in EU law.

    1. From Dave Atherton:

      I do not pretend to be an expert on EU law but there are exemptions on the Single Market for matters of conscience or health. Tyson, tobacco restrictions are based on a treaty from the World Health Organization, signed by Her Majesty's Foreign Office, there is one for alcohol. The international treaty signed by "Sir Humphrey," the UK government via the EU is legally obliged to reduce the drinking of alcohol in this country.

      As you can see with smoking there is not a damn thing you can do.

    2. Thanks for that link - very typical that is full of totally fictitious statements like "Alcohol consumption in northern Europe is at a historical high and is continuing to increase" and positions consumption in the region as "high" by comparing it will less prosperous regions. There are lots of statements of "proven evidence" but the document is conspiculously missing any kind of reference list.

      The writing is on the wall, but like Chris below, CAMRA's hierachy, out of touch with their membership yet again, have chosen to support the hammering of the first nail. We can only hope the membership at the AGM tell them how out of step they are.

  4. There is a fair bit of case law about minimum tobacco pricing, but obviously it remains to be seen what the courts actually say. Of course, if it was thrown out, the government could simply set the level of duty at 33.3p per unit of alcohol for all types of drink, and outlaw below-cost selling.

  5. Stepping through your link into another link

    increased taxation may well be adopted.

  6. Love the fact that the elephant in the room in that cartoon is smoking a fag ;-)

  7. Petition signed (not that it'll do any good I suppose) and I'm cancelling my CAMRA memebership because of their support for minimum pricing.

  8. I'm so angry that apparently I can't spell "membership"...

  9. If there was a legal case to answer, perhaps the health concerns raised would have to be proven and justified. Reading around there is enough to suggest that the problems and stats are being exaggerated and manipulated. The agenda on this has been clear for some time.

    Some of the figures touted about the benefits of minimum pricing seem pie in the sky. None of the downsides of course (like substitution).

    As someone on a budget enjoying a few beers at the weekend, this is a disgraceful policy, that failed to deal with the 'problems.' Are not bad behaviour and self-abuse failures of the individual?

  10. Well done Chris Mar,kicking the bearded backstabbers,CAMRA, into touch
    That pathetic pack of foam snorters have done
    more damage to the Taverns of England than the
    Black Death,Oliver Cromwell,Luftwaafe and Patricia Hewitt combined.They are not alone,
    we need reminding of the million or more who
    still stand in Pub doorways like stunted skunks
    unable or unwilling to utter a squeek of complaint between them.
    points to ponder
    A gallon of Guinness........£25.60p
    A gallon of petrol.........£6.45p
    50 Grammes Rolling Tobacco £14.34p
    Worth a thought



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