Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It's illegal and it won't work, but just watch them try

It comes to something when the head of the UK region of the EU (Aka David Cameron) steps into the realms of fantasy by asking his apparatchiks to come up with proposals that are counter to EU regulations and since they border on prohibition will probably have the opposite effect to the one they are looking for.
The Prime Minister has ordered officials to develop a scheme in England to stop the sale of alcohol at below 40p to 50p a unit in shops and supermarkets.
Ministers could copy Scottish proposals, which would ban the sale of alcohol below 45p a unit, or bring in a more sophisticated system of taxes based on the number of alcohol units contained in the drink.
Both options would cost drinkers an estimated extra £700 million a year, with any extra tax revenue potentially going to the NHS. The Daily Telegraph understands that the Prime Minister personally ordered the radical “big bang” approach, which will be included in the Government’s forthcoming alcohol strategy. It was due for release next month, but has now been delayed until February.
A recent official study found that setting a minimum price of 30p per unit would prevent 300 deaths a year, 40p about 1,000 deaths, and 50p more than 2,000 premature deaths.
The Downing Street diktat has led to intense Whitehall discussions and disagreements over how the minimum price, which has widespread support among the medical profession, can be introduced. Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is said to favour taxing drink on the basis of alcoholic units. The Business Department has warned that forcing firms to charge a minimum price could be illegal under European law. 
The kicker really is in the last sentence, minimum pricing is not allowed under EU law, something that has also escaped the Scottish government and I suspect the first legal challenge will bring it tumbling down.
However lets assume they get their way, what do they think is going to happen when they try to block access by price fixing a product that the public want? Booze cruises will suddenly become very, very popular and very, very lucrative for some again. At the moment it's not as cheap as it used to be to get your drinks and cigarettes from the continent, but it's still cheaper than getting them here if you are within easy driving distance and buy in bulk to offset your fuel costs. Make the price of booze higher in this country and the only people rubbing their hands will be the ferries and the good Burghers of Calais (and other continental retail outlets) That's assuming of course that those whose vice of choice is booze just don't simply move onto something else that's probably worse and more addictive. Still you just know they are going to try as the government will try and persuade the hard of thinking out there that it's for their own good, whilst most of us will see it for what it really is, a cash grab. After all, it's well known that the figures for a supposed safe daily intake per unit of alcohol were just plucked out of thin air as the Pub Curmudgeon points out here back in 2008.
Nor will the proposed levy help out pubs, the damage there was done by another piece of invidious legislation in the smoking indoors ban, smokers simply stopped going top pubs and their non smoking mates stopped going with them, preferring to buy cheap supermarket specials and drink around someone's house rather than go somewhere a third of their mates (at least) are pretty much banned from.
It is not the job of the government to legislate away our pleasures, they can (try to) advise but that is all but using legislation as a form of social engineering is doomed to failure as it simply plays into the hands of the criminal elements. People like a drink, the government makes the price of drinks too high, people will find other outlets, it really is as simple as that, yet the ptb cannot grasp it, or simply don't care.

5 annotations:

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

Hmm, and will Labour stand up for the poor? Don't hold your breath...

A golden opportunity for UKIP to establish another point of differentiation, though.

Anonymous said...

Oh dear, increasing taxes on alcohol, what a surprise! Which will then be spent on extra perks for all those poor hard done by politicians. Hey, the cost of all those junkets and party conference parties has skyrocketed you know.

I can barely afford to smoke, have a drink or even go out for a meal now - I'm just waiting for each breath I take to be taxed (so they can fund their pensions, send some to a rich African dictator, pay of the gambling debts of a few banker mates of theirs, etc.) and I'm buggered!!!

DerekP said...

Just to pick up on a couple of points:
1 - "with any extra tax revenue potentially going to the NHS"

For the Treasury there is no such thing as 'extra tax revenue' as, very much like Gordo the Terrible in attitude and talent, they regard all our money as belonging to them; so the keyword 'potentially' means they will allocate the money as they choose - in other words spend it on themselves.

2 - "the minimum price, which has widespread support among the medical profession"

So the (well-paid, increasingly-Righteous, with access to drugs for their own use) medical profession supports a scheme which will potentially give them more funds and also more power over our lives - how very fucking nice for them.

It does, though, just make me wonder how independent from such vested interests the "recent official study" could be, bearing in mind the medical profession would have to have been involved, and their institutions have form on supporting the rather dodgy 'science' and stats of Man-Made Global Warming (where the inept statistical modelling was so bad it was even criticised in their own whitewash 'enquiry') .

So, what about the voters' reactions - do they matter to the political class?

IMHO, clearly the (was it?) Feltham by-election, where smokers could safely have given the three main parties a kicking for their anti-smoker legislation - but didn't, left the politicians feeling safe, so now they are predictably pushing policy boundaries again.

I wonder if drinkers will have any more sense of self-worth than smokers, and vote accordingly?

WitteringsfromWitney said...

Repeating a comment from IPJonPolitics from my post on the same subject:

"This, from the Anglo Saxon Chronicle:

The European Court of Justice has already stated that: imposing a minimum price is incompatible with the current legal framework (Directive 95/59/EC), since the setting of a minimum price by public authorities inevitably has the effect of limiting the freedom of producers and importers to determine their selling price (see also, Case C-302/00 Commission/France) minimum prices are not necessary, since the health objectives may be attained by increased taxation of tobacco products. (Case C-216/98) Commission/Greece "

So, up goes the tobacco tax then.......?