Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Forcing outlets to make bigger profit margins on alcohol... surely there's gotta be a better way?

Willie Rennie, the new leader of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland (in case anyone happened to have missed that information) has announced that the Liberal Democrats will be supporting the SNP with their policy of minimum alcohol pricing. I have to say I'm surprised about this U-turn, and disappointed by the support it appears to have generated amongst the party - though I was pleased when he said it would be ratified by the conference.  

Firstly I think this is a poor time to be performing such a policy U-turn, it will come across that in the previous term we were standing against the SNP for the sake of it, now as it doesn't matter so much and they can do what they want we are supporting them.  Obviously I am not the best to talk about the intricacies of Scottish politics but it is the impression that I get.  

Secondly I am against this on a matter of principle.  I understand that there is a health issue with regards alcohol abuse and that politicians want to minimise this issue, however I am 100% against political micro management of people's lives, which this appears to be.  If you can turn around to me and provide me with evidence that by introducing this it will halve the number of people admitted to hospital for alcohol related problems and no other policy could achieve this, then I could sympathise, however I don't think it will and I still don't think the government should be trying to manage the market to influence people's freedom of choice (as can be highlighted by all of my pro drug posts despite me not being a drug user).

I know this is conjecture, but in my opinion, I don't think a person who already has a drinking problem will suddenly stop purchasing alcohol because the price has risen - they are used to rising prices.  No, instead they will ensure that they can afford it by cutting other expenditure to allow them to get their fix.  In my poor student days I always found money for my nights out drinking - it was seen more as a necessity than a healthy diet that's for sure.  

Would a minimum alcohol price effect my consumption of alcohol?  No, well not unless it is put to ridiculously prohibitive levels.  The only people I feel that this will effect (and obviously I repeat, this is conjecture) are those who are particularly poor that the change in price will price them out of their purchase.  These would be people who I feel wouldn't be problem drinkers and see it as a genuine choice and are therefore not the people the legislation would be targeting.  

I understand duties on alcohol and agree with them - people are free to choose alcohol but at the same time there are likely increased health costs so extra tax revenue is required to meet these costs.  What makes this policy worse however is it is forcing outlets to raise their prices, and hence their profit margins without directly increasing the funds to the governments (other than increased corporation tax).  Therefore surely the wholly more sensible policy is to ban the products from being sold below the duty and VAT placed on them - this way the Government has their minimum price.  

I emphasise that whilst I understand duties, I don't necessarily fully support them but I can tolerate them in policy, what I can't understand is setting minimum prices.  At the end of the day I will always favour letting individuals make their own minds up with the governments role as ensuring the public make educated decisions. 

One further note on this story, as reported by the BBC.

"Alcohol Bill was supported by doctors, nurses, the police, churches and health experts. "

I resent organised religion being used as support for any government legislation - unless it is one directly involving the rights of organised religions, they should have no role in setting the laws in a secular nation.

No comments:

Post a Comment