So the government are proposing a minimum cost per unit of alcohol of 45p, 5p higher than the previously suggested figure and 5p less than the proposed Scottish minimum price per unit. It is also suggesting that multibuy promotions such as 2-4-1 are to be banned.  The figures they quote regarding the health benefits and reduced crime level due to an estimated reduction in consumption of 4.3% are technically impressive, 2,000 less deaths, 66,000 less hospital admissions, 24,000 less recorded crimes.  However, never has the phrase “Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics” held so true.  Various people have looked behind these figures and found that some of the methodologies used to be poor from a statistical point of view.

This minimum tariff will not affect most pubs price wise as trying to get to pint of 5% beer below the £1.35 (3 units at 45p) at tap after purchase costs, overheads and taxation is nigh on impossible for a half decent beer.  Those who do sell at this level or below are using the offer as a loss leader to bring people into the pub and spend money on non promotional products.  This is the exactly the same tactics that the supermarkets use, making a loss on one or two products in the hope you pick up a few full priced products while there. The long term plan is to make you a more regular shopper. In reality this conversion does not happen in the majority of cases.

What happens more often is that people become “offer tarts”. Where I live near Halifax, I have an Aldi, a Lidl, 2 Tescos, 2 Asdas, 2 Sainsbury’s and a Morrisons all within 15 minutes drive. All of these compete with each other via discounted beer, and many people simply go to the cheapest point of supply.  Such brand loyalty when it comes to food and off sales alcohol purchases simply does not exist to the same extent that it did 20-25 years ago.

Like many ale drinkers the price rise would not affect me 95% of the time, a decent bottle of ale (containing 2-3 units of alcohol) in the supermarket costs £1.50 upwards (even when part of a X for £Y). When I go to a local beer specialist, I pay £2 minimum for a bottle, going a lot higher when visiting a higher end shop such as Chezwik in Brighouse.  Where I would pay more is when buying cider from certain outlets for my wife when at home. Having a family curtails pub time somewhat and I admit I probably drink as much at home as I do in the pub, although the latter cannot compete with a nice pint fresh from the pump. Due to the higher typical strength of some ciders, the difference on some purchases will be about 20-25p.

The main victims of this policy in many commentators eyes will be those considered “poor” or in poverty, who are considered more likely to buy cheap and / or strong alcohol.  These comments seem to stereotype such people, inferring that those without much money drink the super cheap own brand beer, are necking 3 litre bottles of super strong cider or sitting there with slabs of 2-4-1 mainstream lager while watching the X-Factor.   While logically there is a sensible basis for this argument, it doesn’t pan out, sit in your typical supermarket car park for long enough and you will observe as many 2-4-1 slabs of Fosters or Carling being loaded into nearly new BMW’s as they are loaded into 20 year old Vauxhall Astras.

Lets be frank about the 3 litre bottles of 8% gut rot cider for £2-3, if your stomach can stand any significant volume of this stuff, you’ve drank too much of it already and your taste buds been all but destroyed, increased pricing will not stop most such drinkers.  However if it does stop some people drinking this stuff then that is the one good thing to come out of the legislation.  Alcohol is not bad for you per se, too much alcohol is of course not good for you, but poor quality alcohol is equally culpable.

The ruling classes who proposed this can sit happily with their quality gin and tonics, scotch whiskeys and vintage wines without noticing their own rulings.  Maybe they need to sit back and look closer at what they want to put into the statute book for longer and give us a more nuanced bill which uses intelligent pricing structures, not just a one size fits all single pricing level.  They do this already with beer duty regarding differing taxation levels, although some people say this is flawed itself.

The government hasn’t halted its losing run when it comes to alcohol legislation and I don’t see them winning any time soon.

  1. Curmudgeon says:

    PupPaper – this blog is going to the dogs 😉

  2. Curmudgeon says:

    While it may be difficult to find much to say for 7.5% white cider, it brings to mind this quotation from H. L. Mencken:

    “The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.”

    And I’m sure there’s plenty of strong cider being made on farms in the West Country that may be a much more “natural” product but in practice tends to be consumed by much the same type of drinkers.

    • santobugtio says:

      Oh yes I agree about the local supply of strong cider, I’ve been on holiday in Devon and brought a “car oil” style container full of the stuff from a local shop for 4-5 quid and I’ve no doubt it was about 8%, however it was a lot better than the small amount of white cider I’ve sampled. Although if duty is being paid on this stuff is factually ambiguous.

      I think the fact you can get the volume equivalent of 5-6 bottles of “more natural” ciders for £3-4 when buying white cider is the issue
      Even at discounted prices you will be paying £7 for the same effective volume of alcohol for the better quality product.

      If you are after pure alcohol hit, you know which you would buy, a different answer would be given if you are after a pleasant drink.