Sunday, 25 March 2012

Breaking news ... London man set to lose job due to minimum pricing ...

"Re-shuffle, what re-shuffle?"
If there's one job loss that I shan't mourn brought on by this administration's disconnected, disjointed and misinformed Alcohol Strategy it will be that of the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley.

As reported in the redoubtable Independent Lansley is said "to be furious that David Cameron has overruled his concerns over the legality, morality and effectiveness of the proposal designed to tackle Britain's binge-drinking culture. It left Mr Lansley looking isolated and sparked suggestions he will lose his job in the next reshuffle."

Let's just analyse some keywords in that report:

Legality ... I am sure that 'Europe' will have something to say about minimum pricing at some point ... good job the Treasury has all that above inflation alcohol duty escalator money to burn when they appoint a veritable army of high-paid lawyers to defend its decision when it is challenged in the courts.

Morality ... allowing (along with the previous administration) certain elements of the off-trade to continually flout the principle of "responsible retailing" and the four licensing objectives in the Licensing Act, then take it out on the majority of consumers who "drink responsibly" especially those on low incomes ... but let's face it the 'undeserving poor' don't deserve a pint at the end of a hard days graft.

Effectiveness ... unless the minimum unit price is set well above the currently mooted level of 40p it just won't work. Put it to something like £1.20 a unit and the disparity between off-trade pricing and on-trade pricing would all but disappear. There would be no incentive to drink at home when the price one pays in the supermarket is the same as in the pub ... the latter of which, of course, on the whole provides a safe controlled environment for social drinking. (Note to Georgie Porgie ... here's a bit of joined up thinking ... think of the increased corporation tax and VAT this would generate ... gotta pay for all those lawyers!)

Designed ... this implies some sort of intelligence and forethought, something that is clearly not evident in the Alcohol Strategy, unless it has been a carefully crafted 'knee-jerk reaction' to certain reports about the rise in liver disease or hospital admissions .

Isolated ... this will be the feeling a lot of publicans get when the staff and customers have all departed for the night and the long dark night of the soul is upon them. A little reported consequence of this administration's mismanagement of the alcohol has been to further diminish the sustainability of thousands of tied community pubs by steadfastly defying the 'will of parliament' over regulation of the pubcos. As more and more pubs go to the wall, less and less 'safe places' are available for 'responsible drinking' ... let alone the costs in terms of ruined lives and increased benefit costs. Isolated? That'll be the solitary ounce of common sense the Cabinet share between them.

So don't spare a thought for Lansley, it would seem the majority in the NHS won't, he'll be fine with a couple of well paid directorships in the health provision industry ... save your compassion for the ordinary folk of this country who are just trying to make a living and have a pint and a natter come knocking off time.

P.S. Note to picture editor of the Independent - how about using a bottle of wine or spirits next time you run a piece on alcohol and save the images of beer for beer related stories - you lazy git!

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