27 January 2013
Ask most people in the UK about the importance of pubs and they’ll say they’re a great part of our culture and the heart of the community. But times are tough for pubs. Fourteen a week are closing, according to the Campaign for Real Ale – losing out to the growing trend of drinking at home.
When the UK Government launched its Alcohol Strategy in March last year, they claimed that a minimum price for alcohol beverages bought in shops and supermarkets would help pubs, based on a logic that a reduction in the price difference between the two would lead people to go to the pub. However, a YouGov poll released today shows that logic to be misguided. Less than 1% of people surveyed said minimum pricing would make them drink less at home and more in the pub. If anything, minimum pricing will make things worse for pubs because overall four in ten said they would drink less there if the price of drinking at home rose.
The YouGov poll also reveals that it is hard to predict human behaviour. Sixteen per cent of people surveyed said they would pay the higher prices for a drink, but cut back on other areas of spending such as going to the cinema, clothing and, worryingly, food.
The Government is right to try to tackle binge drinking and all the associated issues it causes, but minimum pricing is not the answer. Other published research into minimum pricing shows that the group with the greatest proportion of hazardous and harmful drinkers is the top 20% of earners, who tend to spend above the minimum price anyway, so won’t be affected. In fact the evidence, and common sense, show that harmful drinkers are the least responsive to price increases in their buying habits. Instead, minimum pricing will end up hitting the pockets of responsible drinkers, especially those on lower incomes, who simply enjoy unwinding with a beer after a hard day at work.
Attitudes to alcohol can be changed, as the Government proved with drink-driving. There is a real need to cut anti-social binge-drinking so we urge the government to tackle the problem with proper enforcement of existing laws, which are extensive; targeted local community schemes and intensive education for parents and in schools. The Government should not be persuaded to bring in even more measures that represent yet another tax on consumers already struggling in the present economic climate.