Budget 2012 - alcohol duty escalator continues
The 2012 budget has been announced the continuation of the alcohol duty escalator of 2% above inflation (RPI), first started in 2008. With inflation over 3%, the above 5% rise in duty is expected to add 11 pence to a bottle of wine, 41p on a 70cl bottle of spirits and 3p to a pint of beer. See a Daily Mail report on the rise or a BBC budget summary.
Pub industry and trade groups continued to speak out against the duty escalator, which they say amounts to a 42% rise in beer duty since its 2008 introduction, having a "devasting impact" on the pubs and employment. The BBPA's Brigid Simmonds also said the rise had not produced a proportionate increase in revenue and was damaging the economy.
The Coalition had previously outlined tax increases as part of its tax policy to 'tackle problem drinking', including changes to duty on weak and strong beers. Taxation has been called for by the IFS as the preferred approach to minimum pricing measures, though does not prevent supermarkets "loss-leading", a strategy much disliked by the Prime Minister.
The Chancellor George Osbourne also announced a rise in cigarette duty and a consultation on anti-fraud measures to address illicit alcohol. Reports of conterfeit and smuggled alcohol appear to have increased in recent years.
Scotland's minimum pricing steps forward
The Scottish government's Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) Bill passed its first parliamentary stage last week, with no opposition votes - see BBC report. The Scottish Conservatives and Lib Dems are now supporting the Bill, but Labour MSPs still oppose it saying it will bring a "windfall" to retailers.
The Scotch Whisky Association still claim the move is illegal and will be challenged under EU law. England's forthcoming alcohol strategy is expected to set out its position on minimum pricing within the next month.
A Tory MP and Doctor, Daniel Poulter, says the NHS must focus on prevention rather than cure in a Guardian piece, which backs minimum pricing and a focus on early intervention. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) have also backed minimum pricing measures, and Sussex police have spoke out in support of the forthcoming Late Night Levy.
Analysis of past studies showed the hallucinogenic drug LSD helped problem drinkers. A prescription drug used to treat anxiety may assist alcohol dependency, according to researchers at Cambridge University.
Proposed tourism reforms could lead to an increase in underage binge drinking say the LGA. Though supporting many of its suggestions for cutting top-down red tape, the LGA warn that deregulation of licensing, planning regulations and other rules could result in high streets with poorly run licensed premises with less enforcement of ID checks.