There is no doubt about it, we have to call time on the Booze Britain Culture however; the arguments around how best to tackle the issue rumble on ad infinitum. I suspect that will still be the case for many more years to come…
I don’t think many right-minded people would disagree, the negatives of excessive drinking are having a profound impact on our society. Our NHS see the impacts, our police and other emergency services are in constant combat against it and ultimately, many members of our society are suffering from it. The health and anti-social behaviour issues are myriad.
Nevertheless, some of the figures being bandied about on all sides of the arguments are not always what they seem. Take for instance the £2.7 billion price tag impact for the NHS in 2012, claimed by David Cameron as fact but found to be questionable (see Full Fact).
When the Government published their Alcohol Strategy, they emphasised the drain of alcohol abuse on our society. Central to that argument was the “overall cost of alcohol-related harm” which they placed at a staggering £21 billion a year to the UK economy.
Was that right? Investigations into the claim found that “Neither the Home Office nor the Department of Health were able to explain properly where the figures were from, and there is no obvious single point of contact to verify the original calculations” (see Full Fact).
Political spin on statistics aside. in the blog Representing the Mambo a self-professed ‘leftie’ alluded to her support for the MUP policy. A policy that was being put forward in 2011/12, but now appears now to have been shelved by David Cameron.
Obviously there are class issues and base political calculation at play and any minimum price would affect working class people disproportionately, but the solution is obvious. Drink less. The left shouldn’t be encouraging heavy alcohol consumption and siding with the drinks companies and their socially destructive agenda…(Supporting the Mambo)
In March this year there was a political U-Turn on the previous rhetoric and David Cameron wobbled on his minimum price for alcohol pledge. Despite the recent adoption of a similar policy in Scotland last year, the legality of the process is having a difficult birth due to an objection from Europe about its legality.
What about the costs/benefits analysis surrounding Minimum Alcohol Pricing?
The Government wants to set higher prices for alcohol. We think this will punish the responsible majority. Why should responsible drinkers pay more? (www.whyshouldwepaymore.co.uk)
Despite the Why Should We Pay More campaign actually being ‘the voice’ of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association, who obviously have a vested commercial interest in the matter, there are also a number of valid reasons why Government-set higher prices aren’t likely to cure the Booze Britain problem (see here).
SABMiller, one of the largest brewing organisations in the world (another vested interest), have also released poll results from YouGov which show that, contrary to the Government’s claims of a boost to the industry, a 45p minimum price for alcohol will turn people away from pubs (Download YouGov report PDF -0.48Mb).
The Institute for Fiscal Studies have also examined the significance of a minimum unit price for alcohol, especially relating to on and off-licence sales and concluded; “ it is unlikely that a minimum price would have much direct impact for on-licence (pub) prices” (see here).
It’s a valid factor that could have influenced a decisions by the chief executives of 12 pub chains, nightclub groups and brewers; they recently wrote to The Daily Telegraph, urging the Prime Minister to “stick to his guns”, saying that the proposed (MUP) measure would “save lives and protect great British pubs” (see here).
Despite all the UK-wide calls for minimum pricing by many politicians, medical professionals, health campaigners and people from both inside and outside the industry, it appears the battle over alcohol pricing is set to continue for some time yet. With all the controversy and divided opinion, the minimum unit pricing policy could be dropped all together!
But what of my views and opinions?
Those who’ve been here before may already know some of the answer to that question, at least in part. With upwards of forty years ‘booze’ experience, firstly as a purveyor, secondly as an enforcer and latterly as a purveyor again but throughout, always a fan of the enjoyment obtained from sensible drinking, I think you could say I’m more than qualified to comment.
The first observation is; the ‘Booze Britain’ problems we face today are as a direct result of the changing attitudes now imbedded in our society over several generations. Getting off your head on alcohol is no longer the side-effect of having a good time, it is the sole intention of many who drink, in particular our younger citizens.
The second major impact on the issue is this; with the advent of and predominance of pub-chain conglomerates within the licensed trade, provision of alcoholic beverages has become a major commercial concern. It is no longer the ‘cottage industry’ it once was, the halcyon days when pubs were the hub of our communities and also, the actual home of the majority of licensees and their families. And all that before we even start to consider the impacts of loss-leader booze sales in our supermarkets.
The final negative impact is this; for several decades we have seen a decline in any realistic proactive enforcement of our licensing laws. Add to that a (mostly) ineffective reactive response to today’s anti-social behavior, resulting from the after effects of too much alcohol, and we have some serious problems. Issues which then have a profoundly negative impact upon crime statistics and our health services.
It’s unlikely there will be a sea-change in any of these factors overnight, despite what politicians may think or desire. Although MUP may seem a sensible measure at face value, it is a facile and inadequate solution. It is also unlikely to ever result in the aims it is designed to achieve.
The price of booze isn’t the problem here, or the route cause of the issues we face. It’s the predominant public perception of the rights and wrongs of getting off your head, that and a devil-may-care attitude to the impacts of the aftermath on others.
There is no singular ‘quick fix’ for the ‘Booze Britain’ problems we now face, MUP certainly isn’t the magic key. Any return to the erstwhile era of simply enjoying a night out, without all the negative impacts, is likely to take a generation or more to fix!
- David Cameron abandons plans for minimum alcohol price (telegraph.co.uk)
- Pubs demand minimum alcohol price (telegraph.co.uk)
- Minimum alcohol pricing could just work. It should be given a chance (guardian.co.uk)
- Government to shelve plans for minimum price on alcohol (independent.co.uk)
- David Cameron ‘ignoring compelling evidence’ that dearer alcohol would save lives (independent.co.uk)
- Calling time on the Booze Britain culture? (bankbabble.wordpress.com)
- Poll: Should there be a minimum price per unit of alcohol? (eadt.co.uk)
- Is cheaper beer a sign of muddled thinking? (bbc.co.uk)
“That’s not such a bad idea, it’s fairly simple” says she and then went off on one questioning why politicians always had to bloody complicate things? In many ways I would have to agree with her, so I suggested she write a few words for the blog explaining how she saw things – here it is…
The state of the Country as I see it… We have a deficit – this I understand and it has to be addressed but why do they have to go about it in such a bloody complicated way? I don’t understand.
It would be easier to kick-start the economy if the average person, the worker on the ground at the bottom of the pile (like me) had more money. I don’t have savings yet have worked in the public sector (mostly policing) nearly all of my working life, I have worked my little arse off to serve and protect others!
The minimum wage for starters is a joke! How can a family be expected to live on it? The minimum wage should be at least £10 per hour for a start. The people targeted to make savings should be the people at the top of the scale. The heads of Council, the Bankers etc. Why should they be on salaries so far above what they need to be comfortable? Their salaries should be capped not the workers on the ground. Without the actual workers they would have nothing to take the credit for in the first place!
Why should bankers get more money for doing their jobs? I don’t! I regularly go above and beyond the call of duty for no extra remuneration, no financial incentive? So how is that fair?
I appreciate it is difficult to control salaries in the private sector but in the public sector it should be possible? Why for example can’t there be a system where no job pays more than say £80,000? Across the entire country that is fairer for all. Fair, across the entire Country, if you have a minimum wage you should also have a maximum one. No MP should be paid above that either perhaps the Prime Minister can have £100,000 for their extra responsibilities?
Everything seems to be so over complicated when it doesn’t need to be. With all the cuts the only people affected are the people at the bottom. The working class, who work hard and long hours, for very little money, are suffering. There are more and more in danger of loosing their homes or unable to afford a home.
The people at the top of the scale are not affected at all due to the fact they have more than enough money to live on, savings, holidays and so forth. Give them a cap on their earnings and all that would happen is that they can only have 3 holidays instead of 4! They would not starve or have their homes re-possessed. I suppose they may have to sell one!
Putting this Country back on its feet would be simple if not for greed…
We need the workers on the ground. The nurses, the Police officers, our military why reduce them in numbers? There is no need! There was no need for all the redundancies! The misery and heartbreak not to mention financial stress and strain that caused! I should know I was one of them! They are a necessity! Keep them and put them on a bigger salary. Up the minimum wage and start at the top not the bottom with the savings.
If the little people at the bottom had more money it would go back into the economy and kick-start it. People may have a chance of saving for deposits for homes. They may have a chance of having one holiday a year and some standard of living instead of being totally demoralised.
Too many people are involved in the running of the country and we all know “too many cooks spoil the broth”! It is all far too over complicated when the solution is simple! It should be kept simple and the little people who work hard for a living should be paid appropriately for their hard work instead of working for peanuts.
Would David Cameron work for the minimum wage I wonder?
Had the Government increased the minimum wage by pounds and not pence we would not be here now! I would imagine they got more than pence in their pay rises? And why should those below say £30,000 be refused pay increments? No matter what profession the cuts should have hit the people at the top of the pay scales and not the bottom. Top of scale earners do not notice! Working class where every penny counts do! It’s not rocket science but an overly complicated antiquated system that protects the rich and demoralise the poor.
I have worked my whole life and been self-sufficient throughout but I am now at a stage where it feels I have worked my entire life for nothing. Nothing to show for it and struggling to make ends meet due to low salaries brought about by the introduction of such a ridiculously low minimum wages. If there can be a minimum wage then why not a maximum? Funny I have never heard of the maximum wage!
The way the Country is run should be transparent. It should make sense in every way. It should not protect the rich! Hit them with higher taxes but cap the capacity of earnings in the public sector to make the savings. Big mistake to cut the “Indians” who do all the actual work and know how to do the job and what is required. We have lost so much experience with redundancy at what cost I ask myself?
If you asked a housewife to make cuts to her budget would she cut out the food, the heating and the lighting first? No, these are the basics required to sustain her family. She would cut back on the non essentials like holidays, new cars and new designer clothes. She would start at the top looking at the non essentials - Not at the bottom!
I don’t see any change to our country and it’s all up side down? I see those that are already suffering seeing things actually getting even worse for them every day! But who would listen to someone like me?
Despite it being so bloody cold and barren perhaps a move north would be a good idea? After all, the Icelandic people seem to have had some success in sorting many of these problems out…
She has some valid points – Perhaps a far more simplistic approach to so many things would actually be of benefit to our society?
- UK workers suffer sharpest wage fall of any developed country (thisismoney.co.uk)
- Austerity and the Threat to Democracy Around the World (truthdig.com)
- The Gender Wage Gap Is Getting Worse (thinkprogress.org)
- Budget 2013: reaction (telegraph.co.uk)
- A Druid economy (druidlife.wordpress.com)
- 56% of Lib Dem members suggest: no-one on minimum wage pays any income tax (libdemvoice.org)
- House of Commons barista earns more than a policeman (metro.co.uk)