This was in The Guardian in April: Introduction of 50p base rate should go ahead if it is shown to reduce excessive drinking, says Lords select committee peers.
Minimum unit pricing for alcohol should be introduced across the UK if it proves a success in Scotland, a Lords committee has said.
If the decision to introduce a 50p base rate per unit of alcohol is shown to reduce excessive drinking, it should to be rolled out nationwide, the Lords select committee on the Licensing Act 2003 said.
The plan means a 70cl bottle of whisky would cost a minimum of £14.
In December, the Scotch Whisky Association said it would appeal to the UK supreme court against a Scottish court ruling that plans for a 50p minimum price were compatible with EU law.
The coalition government pledged in March 2012 to bring in minimum unit pricing but made a U-turn in July 2013, earning condemnation from medical organisations and arousing suspicions that it had caved in to alcohol industry lobbying.
A government report released late last year found that alcohol is now the biggest killer of people aged between 15 and 49 in England, accounting for 167,000 years of lost productivity annually and a factor in more than 200 illnesses.
Peers have also called for a major overhaul of how licensing decisions are made after hearing evidence that some councillors were guilty of a “scandalous misuse” of their powers.
In addition, the Lords committee called for the Licensing Act to be redrawn to abolish local authority licensing committees and hand their role to planning watchdogs at councils instead.
The committee’s chairwoman, Lady McIntosh of Pickering, said the act was fundamentally flawed and needed a major overhaul.
“It was a mistake and a missed opportunity to set up new licensing committees when the planning system was already available to regulate the use of land for many different purposes,” she said.
“The planning system is well suited to dealing with licensing applications and appeals, and the interests of residents are always taken into account.”
The committee was shocked by some of the evidence it received on hearings before licensing committees.
“Their decisions have been described as ‘something of a lottery’, ‘lacking formality’, and ‘indifferent’, with some ‘scandalous misuses of the powers of elected local councillors’,” McIntosh said.
Referring to evidence that councillors had refused to listen to arguments at hearings, or to stand down when family members were involved in the situation, the report said: “These are scandalous misuses of the powers of elected local councillors, and they are not the only ones we were told of.
“The Derbyshire police wrote: ‘It has become too political with councils being frightened of making a tough decision for fear of an appeal against them by big brewing companies, etc. On two occasions I have had councillors state that they have agreed with the police, however, sided with the pub company for fear of an appeal.’”
The Lords committee said: “The evidence received against local authority licensing committees was damning and the committee was extremely concerned by what it heard. Planning committees are much more effective, reliable and well-equipped to make licensing decisions.”
McIntosh also called for relevant legislation to apply at airports: “We cannot understand why the government has decided not to apply the Act to sales at airports. This can lead to dangerous situations, and must be changed.”
The committee also warned regulations covering late night opening do not work.
“The night-time economy needs regulating; even in these areas of cities, residents have their rights. The current systems are not being used because they do not work.”
The report also called for establishments to provide a disabled access statement when applying for a licence.
The piece went up at midnight on Tuesday 4th April and by the time I read it at 8:45am it already had 298 comments – which I found both interesting and telling as did several commenters, included below:
Vagabondo: “The industry PR machine can be observed flooding these comments with misinformation about a measure that has been shown to cut youth alcohol abuse requiring medical intervention in other jurisdictions. This is part of the same sadistic campaign that has been waged to preserve profits at the public expense in the Scottish media and courts, and so far successfully in the UK Parliament.”
Hirpling: “Absolutely amazing how the same false assumptions are just churned out over and over and over on this thread. Or maybe not so much amazing as deliberate…?
1. Its a tax. FALSE. Minimum pricing. Read that bit again.
2. It affects ordinary people drinking ordinary booze. FALSE.
3. It doesn’t cure alcoholics. NOT AIMED AT THEM
The low-grade, low price crap is a recent introduction to the UK market to get kids drinking young and hooked at pocket-money prices. There was no need for this “differential” as there were already three: it was a new price point to get a new market — a new set of addicts in training. The kids can go back to buying enough to get drunk on as before, instead of enough to give themselves alcohol-poisoning and (or other people) a trip to A&E.”
Tenthred: “I’d like the SWA to be liable for government legal costs when they finally lose. Disgusted that they’re taking it back to the Supreme Court yet again. And then, if the measure does improve public health, I’d like the SWA to be sue for damages for the public health cost of the years of delay.
They call themselves the Scotch Whisky Association, but they aren’t doing this because of anything to do with Scotch or with consumers in the UK. This is all about their parent companies’ huge global interest in cheap booze.”
Agree completely with each comment. As I oft say here, watch what they do not what they say …….