Alcohol Strategy

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:39 am on 7th February 2012.

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Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley 11:39 am, 7th February 2012

I will not give way, because plenty of other people want to speak and time is pressing. I will happily debate with him in the Tea Room or at some other point, although I am the only one arguing from this perspective, I suspect.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research conducted research on minimum pricing and concluded that the heaviest drinkers are the least responsive to higher prices. For example, at a minimum unit price of 40p, the CEBR found that harmful drinkers, which the policy is supposed to be targeting, would reduce their weekly consumption by only 1.7 units per week, which at the end of the day is less than one pint of weak beer. A report by Sheffield university found that a minimum price of 45p per unit would trigger a 6% fall in overall alcohol consumption and 60 fewer deaths in the first year alone. Yet the Government figures for 2009-10 show that overall alcohol consumption fell by 7%, while alcohol-related deaths rose by 36. Clearly, there is no link between the two.

Minimum pricing treats all drinkers the same, and penalises—financially and practically—the overwhelming majority of adults, all those people who drink alcohol responsibly and in a socially acceptable way, causing harm neither to themselves nor to others. The people who would be most penalised by minimum pricing are those who are already on tight budgets, such as pensioners, people on fixed incomes or those in low-paid jobs. I simply cannot understand how hon. Members, in a time of economic austerity, are prepared to force some of their poorest constituents to pay more for alcohol, when they know full well that the overwhelming majority of those constituents drink alcohol responsibly and in moderation. If hon. Members want to tackle binge drinking and alcoholism, they should focus their efforts on binge drinkers and alcoholics, not on everyone in the country, which would be unjustifiable.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies produced a report on minimum pricing that found that poorer households, compared with richer households, on average pay less for a unit of off-sale alcohol. For example, households with an income of less than £10,000 a year pay 39.8p per unit, while those on a household income of more than £70,000 pay 49.3p per unit on average. As a result, a minimum price of 40p or 45p per unit would have a larger impact on poorer households and virtually no impact on richer ones.