I've just noticed on the BBC News website that minimum pricing on alcohol in England and Wales may be dropped because Conservative ministers can't agree about the proposals. Apparently several Cabinet ministers, including Theresa May, Michael Gove and Andrew Lansley, don't agree with the plans to introduce a price of 45p per unit and a ban on multi-buy promotions.
The BBC's health correspondent writes: "Research has suggested a 45p minimum could reduce drinking by 4.3%, potentially saving 2,000 lives within a decade. This was why the idea had such strong backing from the medical profession. But using price is a crude tool. As well as hitting problem drinkers, it would also influence those who consume alcohol in moderation. Dropping the plan may win ministers votes, but it won't make them popular with doctors." It's my underlining in the quote, because research that can predict a possible outcome is not scientific: it's little more than informed guesswork to a predetermined solution.
The phrase "a crude tool" is right: it will disproportionately affect people on lower incomes, while providing merely a diminishing inconvenience the further up the income scale you go. Is it only poorer people whose binge drinking is a problem? Actually, to this shower in government, the answer is probably "yes". The British state has for hundreds of years mistrusted ordinary people and drink, and moral panics are nothing new. For example, during the First World War, the government introduced many measures to tackle drinking, including banning the purchase of alcohol for someone else, and drastically curtailing licensing hours.
If they do drop minimum pricing, I suspect the reasons may include an unwillingness to embark upon the time, expense and effort of fighting challenges under EU law, and a reluctance to introduce a measure that will doubtless be depicted as yet another Tory attack upon the poor.
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