Let me give you a scenario

“A man goes into a bar, has more than a few drinks, come 11pm, the same man allegedly starts a brawl where he lashed out and headbutted a fellow drinker, then started attacking several other patrons. The bar in question is unlicensed and serves alcohol at subsidised prices.   The police attend and the man is arrested.”

This is just the behaviour that the government is trying to cut down through limiting drink offers, introducing minimum pricing levels and lowering alcohol levels in beers.  The expected outcome of the scenario outlined above is that the bar is shut down due to anti social behaviour on the premises, not to mention the lack of a license.   The man who instigated the trouble is arrested on the charge of assault at minimum.

However the bar in question is Strangers Bar in the House of Commons and as such does not need a license, and the people subsidising the drinks are me and you also known as the tax payers.  I said I would leave this topic alone last week, but the actions by Eric Joyce, the Labour MP for Falkirk has re-opened the wound, as well as opening several new wounds on the victims of his assault.   He has been suspended by his political party at the time of writing.
If found guilty he will be forced to quit as a Member of Parliment.  The banning of the “Top Totty” guest ale from the same bar a few weeks ago due to the beer clip being sexist is inconsequential when compared to this incident.

The government seem to want us to do what they say, not do what they do.  The Houses of Parliament host 9 bars, some subsidised, some not.  Overall, for all the bar and restaurants via the internal catering service, we paid £5.8m last year, adding £7.60 to every £10 spent by members, staff and guests.  That’s a hell of a staff canteen.  According to other MP’s there is a good number of fellow members who indulge in an unhealthy “drinking culture”, just the behaviour they are trying to stop in general society.

I agree with the need to stop anti social behaviour caused by excess drinking of cheap alcohol whether it be shop or pub brought.  Watch any cop show on TV or go out on a Saturday night in any major conurbation and it is obvious that a significant number of generally younger people go out just to get drunk.  I’ve been the victim of such an assault in my younger days, and it is not pleasant to receive a bottle on the back of the head.   No doubt all the rhetoric about binge drinking and its associated problems over the last few weeks is leading up to a raise in alcohol duty come the budget, a feeling shared by those in the brewing trade.

Some of the legislation being proposed to address issues is being academically disproved, the minimum pricing would only have affected 2% of promotional deals (sample 2000) according to Newcastle University.  Small reductions in ABV will make no difference come the drinkers 8th or 10th pint.  Nor will the same drinker be bothered that his pint is 20p more expensive by that point.  A drunken lout is a drunken lout whether they earn £60,000 as a 50 year old MP drinking in a staff bar or an unemployed 18 year old on £5200 a year of benefits at his local pub, it doesn’t matter if they drink cheap lager, expensive wine or 25 year old whisky.

No doubt spirits will be let off the worse of the duty increases under the guise of protecting the UK spirits industry, but what about the substantial UK brewing sector.   If they must increase the duty on beer, and I do accept that if taxes are going up across the board, then alcohol cannot be seen to be the exception, they should also increase the threshold that allows the brewer to qualify for the duty relief from being a small brewer, and also adjust the legislation so that stronger beers from such brewers also get the relief on that higher rate of duty.

Support also needs to be given to the pub industry which is still seeing a decline, although the real ale and craft beer pubs are bucking this.    The brewer – distributor – public house is a chain which needs all elements present or it totally breaks down, and thus must be preserved.