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On 24th May 2012 the Scottish Parliament passed a bill which will introduce a 0.50p minimum price for a unit of alcohol. It gained cross-party support with the Conservatives, Scottish Greens and Liberal Democrats voting alongside the Scottish National Party. The provisions will come into force in April 2013.
In March a divided Coalition Government in England proposed an ‘alcohol strategy’ including a 40p minimum price for a unit of drink. The argument rages on.
However evidence is emerging that, according to some experts, the 2005 introduction of 24-hour drinking is resulting in reduced alcohol intake. Traditional public houses have faced recession as drinkers have preferred bars and restaurants. The trade has made a commitment to take out one billion units of alcohol by 2015.
The NHS Information Centre is reporting that in 2011 there was a 3% fall in alcohol-related hospital admissions and that there was a reduction in the numbers of adults who admitted to drinking in the previous week. Research by UK Customs & Excise shows that between 2004 and 2011 individual weekly consumption of alcohol fell by nearly 13%.
The NHS however continues to campaign on alcoholic abuse saying that in England 33% of men and 16% of women drink to excess. Does that include you? A way of finding out is to take the NHS ‘CAGE’ test. The acronym stands for:
C - tried but failed to cut down
A – annoyed by criticism from others
G – guilt about consequences of drinking
E – eye-opener (eg. drive-drive charge)
The British Parliament is rather too closely associated with excess alcohol consumption. In 1963 Anthony Crosland described the election for the new Labour leader as a choice between a crook (Harold Wilson) and a drunk (George Brown.) Lord George-Brown died in 1985 at the age of 70 from cirrhosis of the liver (which is said to have caused a stroke).
In February 2012 Eric Joyce MP, who represents Falkirk, drank to excess in the House of Commons bar and became involved in a fight. He pleaded guilty to four charges of common assault, was fined £3,000, given a 12-months community order and a weekend curfew.
Is the English proposal for a minimum pricing policy correct? Is it, in fact, an assault on individual freedom?
The Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley, has described it as “an absurd tool for tackling drink abuse.”
The Prime Minister said, when introducing the proposals:
“We can’t go on like this. We have to tackle the scourge of violence caused by binge drinking. We have to do it now.”
A sort of ‘Daily Mail’ solution might be to dress all those yobbos who fill A & E Departments on Friday and Saturday nights in orange suits and make them do community service.
Do you drink to excess? Why not try the CAGE test detailed above.
Can I suggest we keep the result strictly to ourselves.
By Tony Drury
- Freedom in the City on 22nd May with JP Floru on May 22, 2013 12:30 pm
- The Freedom Association’s Magna Carta Pimms and Politics Cruise on June 15, 2013 12:30 pm
- Conservative Renewal Conference on September 14, 2013
- The Freedom Zone on September 30, 2013
- The Freedom Zone on October 1, 2013
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