Monday, 3 December 2012

Muddled Thinking and Downright Misrepresentation


Yesterday's Sunday Times had a substantial piece by Dominic Lawson about minimum pricing of alcohol.  He concluded, correctly, that "A minimum price per unit of alcohol is a form of collective punishment" and pointed out that "a minimum price for alcohol is likely to lead to a significant transfer of revenue from consumers to producers and retailers". But we know that don't we?  That's why people like Greene King and BrewDog support it.  Not out of any kind of altruism, but good old money.  Contrast that with Tim Martin of Wetherspoon who isn't noted for high prices, calling supporters of minimum pricing "Flat Earthers". It is altogether remarkable that otherwise intelligent people support it in the vain hope of stopping something they have read about in the papers or seen on television called "bad behaviour", or in the case of Alcohol Concern, to pursue a prohibitionist agenda (first control the price, then make it difficult to buy it, then ban it.), the real but misguided concerns of doctors - why not address individual problem drinkers? - the equally misguided wishful thinking of CAMRA that somehow this will translate into more pub going, or whatever this rag, tag and bobtail of do gooders want to do to the rest of us.  (My only hope on that one is that CAMRA is following a policy of keeping friends close, but enemies closer still, but somehow, I doubt it.)

What is remarkable is how Dominic Lawson tears apart every argument.  He rubbishes the idea that you need to legislate on price to deal with late night rowdiness. He suggests instead that the Police just lock up the perpetrators for being drunk and disorderly and repeatedly do so.  Seems like a good idea surely?  Lawson reserves particular scorn for Sheffield University for its "wild exaggeration and incompetence" in dealing with alcohol statistics and has a swipe at BrewDog's bizarre take on it all (James again) by saying "Sounds as though he has been celebrating".  Instead he counters with some actual facts such as alcohol consumption has fallen by nearly 20% since 2006 and points out that somewhat inconveniently, this has not resulted in a fall in alcohol related deaths, which would have happened if what Sheffield University purports to be true, actually was true.  He quotes extensively from the Adam Smith Institute who have been studying this subject for 40 years.  The leading experts within this field state "We are in the unusual position of being able to empirically disprove  a prediction about policy which has not yet been introduced."

Now of course Lawson wasn't looking at shifting drinkers into pubs, but he does also hammer the idea that supermarkets are indulging routinely in below cost sales. Such happenings account for less than 1% of alcohol sales and have no real effect on consumption

If, like me you think they are out to get us, it is a real good read.  It does seem that there is some hitting back taking place, so let's see more of it.

I'll drink to that.  Responsibly of course.

I'd like to have linked to the article, but it is hidden firmly behind the Sunday Times's paywall. The Morning Advertiser has a good piece here however.

13 comments:

Cooking Lager said...

As you are a long standing and active CAMRA member, can I ask how CAMRA ended up supporting this nonsense? I can make fun and call you all beards, but the CAMRA members I have met and know (including yourself) appear to be quite sane and moderate people. Of course I have met swivel eyed nutters and a few of your ranks create a stronger impression of eccentricity than others, but how did a democratic organisation go from campaigning FOR real ale by holding festivals, dishing out free magazines in pubs and generally encouraging boozers like me to try the hand pumps to campaigning AGAINST anything that is an alternative but not really a threat to real ale. A can of lager or glass of wine at home, a new supermarket on the site of a dead pub & stopping welfare claimants from having a drink?

That is the question I’d like to know since the membership price exceeded the number of Spoons tokens handed out.

Curmudgeon said...

Good post, very well said.

I think to be fair CAMRA's stance is that they support a minimum price equal to the cost of duty, production and distribution, which I recall Mike Benner saying was about 35p/unit*, but somehow I doubt whether they'll do anything to oppose the current plans.

It's a thoroughly bad idea all round and CAMRA really should not be expressing any sympathy for it.

* for beer, this is probably about right, but it certainly isn't for many ciders due to the lower duty

Cooking Lager said...

That is complete bull, Mudge. The beards support 45p a unit

http://www.camra.org.uk/article.php?group_id=5582

Curmudgeon said...

Mudgie in "give CAMRA the benefit of the doubt" shock!

Actually, in July's "What's Brewing", it says:

"CAMRA supports a genuine ban on the sale of alcohol at below cost. This would take into account the cost of brewing and retailing beer. This would result in supermarkets being unable to sell beer below an average cost price of around 80p a pint. CAMRA does not support proposals for a minimum price unrelated to the costs of producing and selling beer."

Assuming the beer is 4% ABV, 80p a pint works out at around 35p a unit.

Matt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt said...

The prohibitionists know that minimum pricing won't reduce alcohol consumption. They see it as a staging post on the way to tighter restrictions on drinking.

Séan Billings said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Séan Billings said...

When we had a ban on below cost selling in Ireland alcohol sales actually went up quite dramatically. Pretty conclusive proof that minimum pricing doesn't work, but they are still talking about copying you lot over the water anyway.

http://irishcraftbeer.blogspot.com/2012/12/a-minimum-price-for-alcohol-we-tried.html

Coxy said...

Ive just bought two large 660ml bottles of Brewdog punk Ipa on for two for £4 , would that scrape through, its 5.6%, don't totally understand what a unit is?
Surely CAMRA's stance is to support pubs?
Like the point about Police, the fighting at football has stopped because the sentences are so stiff, you can go down for a few years for punching someone around football grounds , but do it on the high street and you will probably get bound over, so follow football on the high streets.
Carefree

Curmudgeon said...

A "unit" is 10ml of pure alcohol, so a 660ml bottle at 5.6% contains 3.7 units, which at £2 a bottle is 54p per unit.

Coxy said...

Thanks for that,Curmudgeon, one bottle is more than my daily allowance I see, I will have to save a bit in the fridge for tomorrow.

RedNev said...

I agree with this post and will, uncharacteristically, quote David Cameron: "The big society is about changing the way our country is run. No more of a government treating everyone like children who are incapable of taking their own decisions. Instead, let's treat adults like adults and give them more responsibility over their lives." [The Observer 12 February 2011]

RedNev said...

Care to explain yourself, Anon?