back to article UK.gov's minimum booze price dream demolished

Economists at the Office of Fair Trading have quietly demolished the UK government's case for minimum alcohol pricing. Minimum pricing regulations are likely to see more booze sold than ever, they predict, contrary to the government's desire to curtail alcohol consumption. Profiteering is also likely, with higher alcohol prices …

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Sorry ...

...was minimum alcohol pricing intended to reduced drinking? I thought it was a intended to be a stimulus package for smuggling.

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Re: Sorry ...

I thought it was to raise more revenue for the treasury.

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Pint

Re: Sorry ...

I'll drink to that!

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FAIL

Re: Sorry ...

The minimum pricing policy is a done deal in Scotland. I expect when the policy is enacted, there will be stories about evil gangs smuggling cans of lager from England to Scotland, and we will hear about the 'devastating impact' this has on booze retailers in Scotland. Was the cost of trying (laughably) to police the England-Scotland border taken into account?

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Re: Sorry ...

It's going to be amusing crossing the border to buy our whisky back from England cheaper than we can buy it at home. Most people in Scotland live within 2 hours drive of the border. I predict the problem won't be gangs smuggling alcohol across but cars full of average people.

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Smuggling?

Is it going to be actually smuggling? Currently it's legal to buy a can of lager in England and then drive home to Scotland with it. Is that going to be actually outlawed or taxed in some way?

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Re: Sorry ...

There is already a problem in Scotland...

If you buy your booze for home delivery from, for example, tesco.com (although given Troy Hunt's revelations, who would), then you are buying your booze in England, and won't be subject to the Scottish minimum price.

The trouble with all these "theories" about the impact of minimum pricing is that you won't actually know the outcome until you try it. Only through experiment can you objectively observe the results and draw an conclusion. That is what science is about, unlike religion and politics which are about who can shout the loudest about their doctrine.

(In proper reply to Irongut, while there may be an increase in "cars full of average people" driving two hours across the border, I doubt the cost of petrol for a four hour round drive would offset the difference in price of the alcohol. Vanloads, maybe, but not cars).

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Re: Sorry ...

Its just as amusing for smokers, we can fly to an EU country and buy back the same tobacco made in the for less then we pay over here. If we travel over and buy our full entitlement the amount saved from tax pays for the trip and leaves you with a bit of spending money to have a weekend away, this is why the gov are so pi**ed about it. They receive no money at all and whats worse for them is we're spending our left over money abroad and not home!

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Boffin

Re: Sorry ...

It can't raise revenue for the treasury, as booze tax is levied based on the amount of alcohol, not on the price.

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Pint

I'll drink to that!

hic! :-)

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Pint

Re: I'll drink to that!

wah whash that??

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Anonymous Coward

So...

Why can't we go back to the good ol' days. The days where only a dedicated offlicense could sell cheap plonk, rather than every supermarket in the country.

And then they could apply the "minimum price" to these places, which wouldn't make a huge difference since an offlicense generally seems to cost more than a supermarket offlicense anyway, and keep it to no minimum for pubs and clubs.

Then again I also wish they'd do something about drinking in public. Sick and tired of going through town on a saturday lunchtime and seeing groups of idiots walking round with cans of carling. Sure drink at home, drink in a club, drink in designated drinking zones. But don't drink in public for the love of god.

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Re: So...

Whats wrong with drinking in public exactly?

If they were doing anything indecent then thats breaking the law and they should be arrested; but actually drinking in itself isn't illegal afaik and I don't see what problem it causes?

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Stop

Re: So...

"Then again I also wish they'd do something about drinking in public."

They are: They're making it worse by making it too expensive to drink in pubs.

Many cities now have a 'no open containers' ban in the central areas. Walking through town here with a can in hand invites a ticking off by a Plastic Plod.

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Re: So...

The days where only a dedicated offlicense could sell cheap plonk, rather than every supermarket in the country.

Don't forget petrol stations, cornershops, chip shops, in fact pretty much anywhere.

And why not raise the offence for selling to under age kids?

Sell and lose license for 1 month, 3 times and iyour banned for a year. Far more effective than a fine. How can they protect themselves, be like when I was in the states, unless your clearly over about 50, you get id'd. They'll be a lot of bitching and moaning for a few months, but then if everywhere does it, it becomes the norm and people accept it.

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Re: So...

"Sell and lose license for 1 month, 3 times and iyour banned for a year. Far more effective than a fine. How can they protect themselves, be like when I was in the states, unless your clearly over about 50, you get id'd. They'll be a lot of bitching and moaning for a few months, but then if everywhere does it, it becomes the norm and people accept it."

Problem is that a lot of people go about without their ID cards (because they're in high-theft neighborhoods where pickpocketing is a given) or wear pocketless clothes (and no lanyards) that leave no place for their cards. Some people CAN'T get cards because their licenses were taken away by the courts (usually for DUIs) and since most DMVs also issue the non-driver ID cards, they won't issue non-driver IDs to drivers for security reasons (before and after 9/11, masquerading using an extra ID was a known issue).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: So...

Or, right, and here's a better idea, why not try and stem the reason people feel the need to get shitfaced in the first place rather than resorting to half-arsed attempts to stem the effect.

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@ AC 1239

All well and good, but how do you identify the reason(s), and what do you propose could be done about them ?

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Re: Sell and lose license for 1 month, 3 times and iyour banned for a year

> Sell and lose license for 1 month, 3 times and iyour banned for a year

Or alternatively "Don't sell and have the Chavs break your shop windows every week until you can no longer get insurance and go out of business anyway".

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Re: So...

My wife loved it when we lived in the US because she got a kick out being a 35 yo being told they had to check she was over 21. Until some plain speaking young man told her straight that, no, she didn't 21 to him but it was the law!

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The politician's lemma

1) Something must be done.

2) This is something.

3) Therefore it must be done.

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Joke

Re: The politician's lemma

Politicians are like nappies...

...both need to be changed regularly, usually for the same reason.

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Therefore it must be done.

Spot on.

Telling them it won't help or even make things worse won't make a shit of difference because they don't care about the problem they care about being seen as caring.

Doing nothing makes it look like you don't care which nowadays is a bigger sin than making things worse. Doing something which makes the problem worse earns them a pat on the head because at least they tried.

Won't get any better until we start valuing competence more than touchy-feely what place is their heart in shit.

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MGJ
IT Angle

Re: Therefore it must be done.

So its just a coincidence that smoking rates are down as the price has gone up hugely?

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Re: Therefore it must be done.

Whilst the rates have gone down, the number of 'smoking related illness' has gone up substantially.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The politician's lemma

lemma??? (what does this neologism mean?). Surely it is simple Aristotelian logic?

All politicians tempted to "do" something should have Ronald Reagan's brilliant "don't just do something, stand there" rammed where it might do some good!

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So, it may have health and social benefits, whilst paradoxically creating higher sales of alcohol and profiteering by retailers, even though many people don't have the money to afford it.

I wonder who was lobbying to get that report?

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MJI
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Minimum pricing

I worked out in only effected the cheapo stuff and not the decent stuff.

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Re: Minimum pricing

Except it doesn't because no premium brand would want to be associated with their cheaper brethren.

I seem to remember a mocking cartoon :

Stella Artois - Reassuringly Expensive

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Minimum pricing

Cartoon? I saw that on a big advertising hoarding last time I went to Greece (mid-1990s).

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MJI
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Re: Minimum pricing

Premium brands - I'm happy with Westons and Healeys, however would like to see Strongbow banned and a complete ban on importing cider into the main cider producing country on Earth.

BTH most of the premium brand cider is over priced crap and the best stuff is smaller producer

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Anonymous Coward

Homebrew

for the win.

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Pint

Re: Homebrew

Which was why I was laughing when they first announced this crazy hair brained scheme!

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JDX
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Re: Homebrew

Chavs and alcoholics don't homebrew.

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Re: Homebrew

Homebrew indeed. My third and four batches are quietly fermenting away at home.

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Pint

Re: Homebrew

I find you gain a greater respect for the drink when you make it yourself.

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C2H5OH makes governments stupid

Having seen and lived through the desperate anti-drinking measures of the pre-Perestroika Soviet government I know that they just don't work.

Price rises, artificial reduction of supply, trade hours restrictions, drinking age increases - all backfire spectacularly, actually increasing binge drinking and deaths from drinking poor quality and counterfeit products.

At the height of Gorbachev's rule they have actually introduced all of these "measures" simultaneously. They also used results from "research" conducted by pet "scientists" as justification for the new policy.

The whole nation happily turned to moonshining (which immediately led to sugar shortages and nearly caused riots) and home wine making. Black market boomed. Methanol poisoning cases sky-rocketed.

I was below legal drinking age then - never stopped us from getting drinks when we wanted.

Longer term consequences included the loss of valuable vineyards and the know how in the industry. After a couple of years of this madness the government quietly back-pedaled and dropped all that nonsense. But by then they had much more serious problems to think about...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: C2H5OH makes governments stupid

Coincidence that Yeltsin came next?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: C2H5OH makes governments stupid

Talking of stupid................

Surely the molecular formula is CH3-CH2-OH, while the empirical (shopping list) formula is C2H6O: where does C2H5OH come from?

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Boffin

Re: C2H5OH makes governments stupid

Writing it as C2H5OH distinguishes it from dimethyl ether (CH3-O-CH3), which shares the empirical formula of C2H6O, and is equally as unambiguous as, but shorter than CH3CH2OH.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: C2H5OH makes governments stupid

Shorter still the common abbreviation EtOH surely??

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Re: Talking of stupid

It's a standard Russian chemical notation which shows hydrocarbon radicals and the hydroxyl groups separately.

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Economists sink case, addicts will always sink cases

Congrats to the sub-editor!

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The best thing the government can do

... is leave people alone.

Sure, there's a role to play in moderating individuals' behaviour where it affects other people and you can argue a good point that it should provide some sort of safety net for people who fall out of society.

However for everyone else, who makes a conscious decision to do (or not to do) something that doesn't impact on the wellbeing of others, they should just be allowed to get on with it. By all means educate people into the consequences of their actions (whether those actions are drinking, smoking, voting or anything else) but if people are to be trusted with the power to elect governments, the same principle should be applied to how they conduct their personal lives.

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Re: The best thing the government can do

I really don't have much to add to that. Thanks, I can go back to sleep now... :D

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This post has been deleted by its author

The important reason for a minimum price...

...is to make it harder for supermarkets to under-cut pubs and drive more of them out of business.

Now whether I actually WANT to share my local with the sort of person who currently slobs out in front of the TV with a cheap slab of Stella, then gives his wife a kicking before falling asleep, is another question. But if it brings the price of his "lager"[1] nearer to what a nearby boozer that I don't use is selling it at, he might just go there instead.

And taking away the ability to use irresponsible loss-leaders from the supermarkets might just cut their profits a bit, which is no bad thing either.

[1] As opposed to PROPER lager, which actually DOES have some flavour and isn't just there to get you pissed as quickly as possible.

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FAIL

Re: The important reason for a minimum price...

I sympathise; the cost of beer in pubs is too high. However raising the cost of beer outside pubs is no proper way to solve that problem.

Minimum prices only really affect the low end of the market as the better stuff is priced higher anyway. And that better stuff will probably be cheaper in a large supermarket chain with economies of scale, hundreds of customers per staff member and loss-leading sales strategies (which will still be above minimum price) than a local boozer with personal service and limited purchasing power. No, your "proper lager" will remain expensive and no-one will be better off, except perhaps the supermarkets who can sell the cheap crap for more than they would have gotten away with before.

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JDX
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Question

I never got how this was supposed to work - do Tesco simply add £2 on the cost of a £2.50 bottle of wine and take the extra? Or are they forced to give the money to charity/government/manufacturers? Do ALL booze prices go up or only those that fall under the legal threshold... if the latter then this would surely just destroy companies who create budget booze since people would just buy more expensive variants which are no longer more expensive.

If they really want to be radical, ration alcohol sales :) They do this in Dubai actually, it's a rather weird experience buying booze there.

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Go

Unintended consequences

One consequence I've noticed, (in Scotland, even though minimum pricing hasn't even come in yet) is that instead of filling three shelves with boring £4 - £4.50 plonk and half a shelf of more expensive stuff, my local co-op now stocks a wider range of more interesting stuff spread across the £5 - £10 range. Not that wine is the real target, but presumably they realise that no-one is going to buy something that used to cost £3.50 for £4.69 when they can get something that used to cost £4.69 for the same price.

(or maybe they are just upping the prices in advance so we forget what things used to cost).

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