Friday, 17 February 2012

The price of beer

The Government is again thinking about introducing a minimum price for alcohol. It says such a policy could reduce binge drinking by teenagers and the number of alcohol-related deaths every year, despite a lack of evidence for either assertion.

CAMRA also supports minimum pricing, in the belief that binge drinking teenagers and alcoholics will stop buying their booze at supermarkets and off licences and start drinking in pubs under the watchful eye of landlords, thereby boosting the on trade on which cask beer and therefore CAMRA depends. There are lots of problems with this scenario. Unless the minimum price was the equivalent of pub prices, people would just spend a bit more on buying booze in supermarkets and off licences. And even if it were that high, the pubs that benefited might well not be ones which sell cask beer.

The real discussion we should be having about beer price is the amount the Treasury takes in VAT and duty. CAMRA rightly calls for these to be cut to reduce the price of beer.  I not only think they should be cut but that the indirect taxes such as VAT and beer duty should be scrapped altogether in favour of progressive income tax (i.e. the rich paying more).  Alongside that, the Government should introduce maximum pricing for beer so that the benefits of cutting or removing duty ends up in drinkers' pockets rather than on the balance sheets of breweries.

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