IT is increasingly likely that the Government’s alcohol strategy, including higher “minimum” prices for certain drinks, will be published alongside the Budget. There is no coincidence to this: the duty charged on beers, wines and spirts is a key Treasury revenue raiser.
The Chancellor will not be so blunt – especially as the justification for such an approach will be to assist the Government’s clampdown on alcohol abuse and public drunkenness, two social scourges highlighted by the Prime Minister.
There is certainly medical evidence to suggest that alcohol sold at “pocket money prices” is encouraging the young to drink to excess on a night out, thereby forcing David Cameron to advocate “drunk tanks” in which to detain inebriated people until they sober up. Furthermore, too many town and city centres have become no-go areas for those who do not drink – or who only do so within moderation.
Yet, while many will concur with the Tory leader when he says responsible drinking should be a reality, and not just a slogan, it is those who consume alcohol within reason that will be punished by a draconian approach to pricing.
The plain fact is that it is a small number of individuals, whether it be young revellers or adults drinking in the comfort of their own home, whose irresponsibility is stretching the police and costing the NHS £2.7bn a year. Perhaps Ministers need to look at ways of making these people pay for the disruption they cause rather than penalising the sensible majority.