LDV readers say: No to a minimum price for alcohol

by Stephen Tall on March 30, 2009

On the day that chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson was recommending that the government establish a minimum price for alcohol (which would see the doubling of the price of many beers and spirits) LDV posed the question: Is it time to support a minimum price for alcohol?

Here’s what you said:

>> 31% (102 votes) – Yes, minimum prices will help tackle the UK’s binge drinking problems
>> 6% (19) – Maybe, there’s merit in the proposal but the middle of a recession is the wrong time
196% of all votes
>> 59% (192) – No, government should not penalise the responsible majority because of an irresponsible minority
>> 3% (11) – Don’t know / Other
Total Votes: 324; Poll ran: 16th-28th March 2009

A clear majority, then, disagree with the position adopted by Lib Dem MPs (including Nick Clegg) – namely, to support the imposition of minimum prices. Interestingly, we’re currently asking the question as part of our latest survey of LDV Forum members, and the results to date are pretty similar.

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It’s a tough call, liberalism for the consumer versus liberalism for the pub industry.

by Lee Griffin on March 30, 2009 at 12:49 pm. Reply #

I agree with the imposition of minimum prices for alcohol, in line with the precedent set recently, in Scotland.

It has been revealed by Don Foster M.P. Bath that 1000 children under 14 years have been admitted to hospital,over one recent year, as a result of alcohol and this represents a 30% increase of under 14 years admitted to the NHS arising from drink related reasons.

Parents and the NHS are not equipped to respond to the exponential increase in hospital admissions of our young persons resulting from alcohol abuse.

The fact remains that young persons see too many adults embarking on alcohol abuse sessions and thereby use them as their role models.

We require additional resources to educate young people about the dangers of alcohol abuse and those on frequent weekly episodes of `binge drinking’.

Prof. Ian Gilmour the most well known British expert on alcohol abuse, has repeatedly asked Government to pass law to curb alcohol abuse, as it is so freely and brazenly advertised and available in the High Street.

Too many young persons are shortening their life line,destroying their livers and making it much harder to become parents themselves, in the future.

Minimum pricing for alcohol is only one step to help kerb alcohol abuse among many but both anti-social behaviour in public and private are linked to it.

The increased rate of domestic violence to women is also related to alcohol abuse by their partners.

by Cllr Patrick Smith on March 30, 2009 at 4:01 pm. Reply #

You are effectively using the ” Something must be done, x is something, we must do x ” syllogism. My table has four legs, my cat has 4 legs, however my table is not a cat.

The Horrors of under age drinking are an effective rhetorical approach. however

1. Cui Bono from the minimum price? Why does tesco getting extra revenue for there booze help any one ?

2. Is there any social research to say that a higher price will put anyone off. how elastic is under age demand ?

3. given the plethora of laws already in place on this subject why is the emphasis on new legislation rather than enforcement of what we have got?

4. the freedom of ordinary folk to enjoy a cheap drink in the recesssion doesn’t seem to even warrent mention anymore beofre being dismissed.

5. If prohibition hasn’t stopped cannabis abuse why will a minimum legal price for a unit of alcohol stop abuse of that?

There are loads more arguements but all in all its petty authoritarianism as a response to complex social problems. Its a bizzare piece of the political spectrum for the party to be operating in while Labour and the Conservatives oppose it.

by David Morton on March 30, 2009 at 10:55 pm. Reply #

Like Patrick I am inclined to support a minimum price. For those who are against, what alternative policy would you introduce? I might change my mind if you have one.

by Geoffrey Payne on March 30, 2009 at 11:41 pm. Reply #

I’d go for a flat volumetric tax, as advocated by the Alcohol Education and Rehabilitation Foundation in Austrialia, rather than different levels for beer, wines and spirits.

That would make binge products more expensive, while cutting duty on spirits – which are a fraction of UK sales compared to beer, cider and wine.

The alcohol in spirits is no more harmful than the alcohol in beer – it’s the same stuff, just ‘packaged’ differently – and it should be taxed at the same flat rate.


by Andrew Duffield on March 31, 2009 at 12:19 am. Reply #

Yes, Patrick is right on all counts !
With Donald hitting the nail directly on the head, in comment #5….

This scourge will never be destroyed unfortunately, so anything that can be instigated, must be done !

At this time, there are 5 most common health afflictions, solely caused through moderate Alcohol consumption & they are (in no particular order):
-Grand Mal Seizures
-Progressive permenant Blindness
-Progressive permenant Deafness
-Rapidly corruded Livers
-Heart Attacks
None of which have any cures either.

Our largest & most grave concern, needs to be focusted on our Youth, who appear at this time, following directly in our grimy slimy footsteps.
Therefore, when all us old farts, have been dropped off at Seniors Nursing Homes, to be spoon fed & diaperred, who’ll take over our many Professions ?? If our youth have already destroyed their health & working ability’s !!

May God help have mercy on us all !

by Sheila Joyce Gibbs on March 31, 2009 at 7:50 am. Reply #

I haven’t seen any proof whatsoever that higher alcohol prices tackles binge drinking. How do we know what people think they can and can’t afford? I would hope that when the party takes an illiberal stance on something, it can at least offer a semblance of a reason. Anyone have any useful links?

by Alix on March 31, 2009 at 8:15 am. Reply #

I could well believe that; I’ll try digging around.

‘Course, doesn’t mean it’ll work in reverse to undo the habit. Otherwise freebies wouldn’t succeed as a way of increasing sales in the long term.

by Alix on March 31, 2009 at 10:48 am. Reply #

Also, overall levels of alcohol consumption don’t equate to levels of “binge” drinking.

by Julian H on March 31, 2009 at 10:58 am. Reply #

The results of important recent social surveys, by the Lib.Dems. discovered that until 2008, 4368, under 14`s have required drink related medical treatment, in England, via the NHS : and this figure has now increased by 1000,over the latest period.

A significant number of these young victims of bouts of `Binge drinking’
and alcohol abuse, are going to be confronted with permanent liver disease or damage,that unless the root cause is tackled will continue to blight the rest of their lives.

All National Bodies, including Alcohol Concern and the Alcohol Health Alliance,share the same concern,as the long established view of Prof.Ian Gilmore,at the Royal College of Physicians,that young persons are looking to celebrities for the role models and this all helps to fuel the alcohol culture.

Amy Winehouse is seen as a free catalyst of fuelling an habitué alcohol culture and not as a unique vocalist in our age.

We must enforce Local Authority control and organise regular inspections of all shopping outlets,to ensure that under-age sales of alcohol, are reduced and positive alcohol-free messages are sent out to our vulnerable youngsters.

Our supermarket free ways are becoming the catalyst for liver disease and permanent health risks, as a result of alcohol abuse, by our teenagers today.

Our slick `consumerist’ culture in the 21st C is seen by teenagers as their High Street vehicle for more addictive fuelled alcohol,for so many apprenticed `youth alcoholics’!

Minimum pricing of alcohol is essential to help halt the spiral of how our targeted youth are being consumed by our `alcohol culture’!

by Cllr Patrick Smith on March 31, 2009 at 6:37 pm. Reply #

Well I am open to changing my mind, but I think Patrick makes a very good case for minimum pricing, so probably I won’t.

by Geoffrey Payne on March 31, 2009 at 7:37 pm. Reply #

Well, the thing is, Patrick is making a very good case for youth drinking being a social problem. He’s not offering a shred of evidence that raising prices will solve this problem. It does not automatically follow that the problem will reduce – like I say, how can we possibly predict what people think is “too expensive”? That’s what concerns me.

If it was a hard and fast rule that people were rational about their expenditure in proportion to their income then smoking wouldn’t be more common the lower down the income ladder you go.

by Alix on March 31, 2009 at 8:11 pm. Reply #

If ‘binge drinking’ is a problem, wouldn’t it be wiser to look at the causes of it?

I’d be very surprised if anyone could say that life in Brown’s Britain is so utopian that there are no social causes for anyone seeking to escape this reality.

So, what are the people who drink to excess trying to escape from?

What are alternatives? Are there enough alternatives? Are the alternatives competitively priced? Are the alternatives attractive enough?

I don’t think adjusting pricing mechanisms are a silver bullet to this problem.

It strikes me that this proposal is social engineering combined with revenue raising.

Another thing, if it’s underage drinking we are most worried about then we should look at the income sources – how much of it comes from parents?

Kids need to learn not just to consume responsibly, but also to spend wisely.

This move would send all the wrong signals out about how to deal with money because we should be educating people to make positive choices, not trying to control their behaviour.

by Oranjepan on March 31, 2009 at 9:09 pm. Reply #

As a former underage “binge” drinker putting the prices up wouldn’t have made much difference. When you’ve got a part time job and little rent to pay, you might as well spend your money on stuff you enjoy.
Methods to have stopped me would have included shops refusing to sell to me and the police confiscating my drink. As these are both law I think we should be working on these not new ones.

As someone who has a Dad who binges most nights, putting the prices up won’t affect him as he’s down the pub paying more than 50p/unit anyway.

by Ryan Cullen on March 31, 2009 at 9:43 pm. Reply #

As Don Foster M.P. Bath Culture and Sport has pointed out before,at the time when the new pub largesse and opening hours and extra drinking time was introduced by Government : it was important to ask local people first living near these extended hours pubs whether they approved or not ?

There was no social research carried out by Government to predict the likely community impact on the extended drinking rules at the local pub.

For example, the likely increase of police call-outs to alcohol fuelled `being-drinking’ session incidents’ in the inner cities.

I would be interested to know what the increase or decrease of police call-out rates are now, since the extended drinking hours have been in currency over the last 2/3 years?

This in itself is socially indicative of whether increased pub licensing hours has actually contributed to increased self discipline and orderliness of evening social drinkers or not!

I suggest that as Alix has asked pertinently,it would be helpful to have some social research that shows likely impact of minimum pricing of alcohol on the pockets of our younger social drinking fraternity.

Scotland however,has gone ahead with the minimum pricing without the hindsight, as social drinking drinking has reduced mortality rates in some areas of East Glasgow to 53 years, for adult males.

I submit that tough measures are required in Scotland and would support similar measures south of Gretna Green.

by Cllr Patrick Smith on April 1, 2009 at 4:43 pm. Reply #

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