Article excerpt

THERE is no doubt that a minority of people in Britain drink to harmful excess. But to punish the vast majority of responsible drinkers for the actions of a troublesome few seems to me to be not only unfair but downright perverse. Particularly, when the lack of evidence or precedent means we don't know if it would have any impact in the real world.

How can the Government justify imposing price rises when hard-pressed families are already feeling the pinch and millions of ordinary people are struggling to make ends meet? Its own research shows that a 50p minimum unit price would see 73pc of drinks in the offtrade rise in price overnight. It will hit the majority of responsible consumers in their pockets and it is high time they were given these facts.

Supporters of minimum pricing seem to be oblivious to the fact that the people who will be hit by it are pensioners enjoying the odd tipple, or working parents who buy a weekly [pounds sterling]4 bottle of wine to relax after a hard week.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies reported that even moderate consumers of beer and wine will have to spend up to [pounds sterling]71 a year extra under the Government's plans for the lowest expected minimum price of 40p per unit of alcohol and the health lobby wants at least 50p - rising with inflation. We know too that consumers are instinctively opposed to minimum unit pricing, with recent research from journal BMC Public Health showing that consumers dislike the policy on the grounds it will fail to tackle alcohol harm and punish moderate consumers of alcohol. As we hear of yet more splits within Cabinet, opposition across Europe, legal action in Scotland and growing opposition from consumers, I have to wonder if the Government is listening - or even bothering to try. …