Sunday, 22 February 2009

Does This Make Sense?

For someone like me who spent a large part of my formative years campaigning as a Trade Unionist against Tory malpractice in government, it should stick in my craw, but doesn't actually, that the Tories have come up with a semi decent plan to save the pub.

They say that the following should happen:

Cutting taxes on lower-alcohol drinks such as beer and raising taxes on “problem drinks like high-strength ciders and alcopops”. The aim is to “use the tax system to target binge drinking, whilst ensuring that responsible drinkers and the traditional British pub are not unfairly penalised”

• Enforcing existing laws to deal firmly with irresponsible drinkers and premises

• Trusting adults to make informed choices, not punish them for the actions of an irresponsible minority

• Supporting the British pub as a vital part of local communities

Now pour me a WKD and tell me I'm not dreaming. Isn't this what the bloody Government should be saying instead of continually undermining our pubs? Who amongst my reader (bless him) thinks this is wrong? Instead this stupid government continues by default to support home drinking while pubs struggle. It encourages uncontrolled drinking by contributing to making controlled drinking more expensive than it otherwise would be. It has a minister responsible for pubs that freely confesses he never goes in one.

An out of touch government or what? Time for a change? A change of policy certainly. A change of government? That's up to you. Rant over.

The Morning Advertiser has a nice article on this subject here.


The Beer Nut said...

I think it'd be a huge mistake to stigmatise certain products as "problem drinks" -- especially before going on about trusting the punter to make an informed choice. It's very dangerous to mix one's personal tastes with what's in society's best interests.

I shall not partake of your Bacardi Breezer, but I will defend to the death your right to drink it.

Also, I've also no idea what "Supporting the British pub" means from a public policy point of view. Any suggestions?

Tandleman said...

Maybe, but can anyone see the good side of alcopops?

The Beer Nut said...

They provide revenue that the drinks industry (including pubs) might not otherwise get.

Tandleman said...

If that had been a question rather than a statement it might have had something going for it. It is speculative to say the least what would happen if alcopops were banned or priced out of the game. My guess is that some of the revenue at least would still be generated in pubs, as it was before some bright spark came up with them.

The Beer Nut said...

Well of course it's speculative.

"Some" of the revenue suggests that you agree with me that alcopops bring money into the pub tills that would not otherwise be there. I have anecdotal evidence from the pub my mate used to run. He said people who ordered alcopops, which of course he didn't sell, would tend to have a soft drink instead, and then go elsewhere.

Anyway, I'm not arguing that stocking alcopops is good for the licensed trade. Just that they aren't the problem: it's the people who abuse them. Ban or overtax the alcopops and those drinkers will abuse something else. They're not going to convert to mild.

Curmudgeon said...

You have to take what politicians say on such issues with a pinch of salt, as there's no guarantee that they will actually be turned into real policies when they get into government. Also you have to look at what Tory councils do on the ground, and as far as I can see they don't show themselves as being any more pro-pub than their Labour or LibDem equivalents. Indeed I would suggest a core section of the Tory vote at local level comes from the kind of people who are most vocal about the "nuisance" caused by pubs.

In an sense the best thing politicians could do for pubs is to leave them alone and avoid putting any new regulatory burdens or legislative restrictions on them.

I would also agree with the Beer Nut that it is invidious to seek to divide drinks into "good" and "bad". Is John Smith's Smooth a "better" product than a Bacardi Breezer?

Tandleman said...

Ah well. I did write this after I'd been to the pub, but what the heck. I think though that to simply say of politicians, "a plague on all your houses," isn't that helpful. What we do know is that the current regime isn't being pro pub.

Is JSS Smooth a better product than a Bacardi Breezer? Probably. I don't subscribe to the other part of your argument entirely, but I do see your point. Pah, Dabble in politics? Bad idea. I blame the drink.

Tyson said...

I think you're on the right lines. Whilst the Pub Curmudgeon is right to be wary of politicians, it's good to hear a positive statement from them. And, once out there, their pledge can always be used as a prod.

As to alcopops and the like. It's about time we DID start taking a differential approach. The old "they're only drinks" attitude doesn't wash anymore. It's the same arguement that Americans use for guns. Or hoodies over here. However, what I never hear is any alternative solutions. In the absence of a major overhaul in societal values, we need practical policies now. Pricing differential is one such approach. It won't cause a rift in time and space, so why not give it a go?

Neville Grundy said...

Politics on the Tandleblog? I was told off for that a week or two ago.

I don't think alcopops in pubs are the main problem. You can still get a bottle of supermarket own brand vodka (37.5% ABV) for around £7. The same amount of alcohol in beer form in a pub would cost you around 5 times as much. I don't see anything in the Tory plans that addresses this disparity.

Tandleman said...

It's my blog though, so my rules! (-;

Your second point is true and probably always has been.

Unknown said...

The general advice to licensees is to not get involved in politics. But when do I ever listen to advice?

Make no mistake, this government is no good for pubs. They even admit to not being in the "business of keeping pubs open". That is tantamount to admitting they want them shut.

Will the other side be better? I don't know, but there is only one way to find out.

NAM said...

I'd also like to see an extension to Progressive Beer Duty as it rewards the small producer which tends to increase choice and foster innovation, and I suspect that most beer subject to PBD is cask and sold in pubs.

Unknown said...

How would they differentiate between problem drinks and non-problem drinks is the part of the plan that makes me question it. Would it just be based on alcohol content? Surely this would then stigmatise other drinks like barley wines and their ilk, and if there was just a listed range then surely the drinks makers would just work round this. I had thought that there was a higher tax on pre-mixed drinks already? I am probably wrong but surely this would make more sense.

Tandleman said...

I guess you have highlighted that the devil is in the detail.