Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Not The Queen's Speech ...

The pomp and circumstance of the state opening of Parliament by The Queen may seem anachronistic but it does give 'Joe Public' an intimation of what Her Majesty's Government is going to be springing on us in the not to distant future.

More importantly it's what's not in the speech that can sometimes matter ... 
"Just because something is not in the Queen's speech does not mean the government can't bring it forward as law, but we have not made a decision,"
(In an interview on the Today program on BBC Radio Four, with the wonderfully combative John Humphrys, touching on minimum pricing for alcohol, Jeremy Hunt esteemed Secretary for Health stressed that no final decisions had been taken).

Perhaps it's because of propoganda from the health lobby such as this Guardian newspaper report in which it's claimed by researchers in Canada that minimum pricing reduces alcohol harms and hospital admissions; something neo-prohibitionsists have been touting for a long time.

Interesting then to see this response from Miles Beale of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association

"The Institute of Alcohol Studies claims evidence from Canada shows minimum unit pricing for alcohol brings significant health benefits. Using their own estimates of population attributable fractions, researchers in British Columbia say between 2002 and 2009 a 10% increase in average minimum price was associated with a 32% fall in alcohol-related deaths. But actual hospital records show that the number of alcohol-related deaths in British Colombia in that period went up – from 1,073 to 1,169."
"There is another problem. One state, Alberta, does not have controls on the sale of alcohol, but shows no discernible difference in drinking patterns and health harms compared with the rest of Canada. This shows there is no simple link between alcohol price and harm, and that cultural factors are the most likely indicators of consumption patterns"

Dr Perry Kendall, British Columbia's provincial health officer, makes this damning acknowledgement that provincial governments in Canada have introduced a minimum price  for alcohol:
"mainly to bring in money rather than to protect public health". 
It simply won't do for mainstream media to perpetuate the myth that minimum pricing for alcohol is the panacea for the societal problems of alcohol (mis)use ... so my hat's off to Mr Beale for pointing this out. 

Pubs, as responsible retailers, have huge restrictions put on them regarding promotional pricing etc, yet the off-trade (principally the major supermarket chains) are allowed free rein to peddle 'pocket-money' priced booze. 

Surely the myths, half-truths and sometimes outright falsehoods trotted out by the health lobby mustn't be allowed to influence politicians to introduce minimum pricing in England & Wales, if they do it won't be pubs that benefit (after all we're already pricing well above the mooted 45p per unit), not will it be brewers. It will only be the likes of supermarkets that benefit from this multi-billion pound windfall.

You can bet your bottom dollar they won't be using any such government largesse to fund alcohol awareness programs, reduce the price of healthy food options, introduce a living wage for their employees languishing on minimum wages or pay increased tax revenues for the Treasury it their accountants have anything to do with it.

I know it's only Wednesday but ... Nurse! Meds! Stat!

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