Chancellor Alistair Darling has hit beer with a swingeing increase of 4p a pint -- action that will heap misery on British pubs, lead to more closures and do nothing to tackle binge drinking and the sale of cheap alcohol by supermarkets.
With around 30 pubs a week closing in Britain, the trade needed help not hindrance. But Darling has been pressurised into this massive price increase as a result of intense media pressure and the absurd claims of bodies such as Alcohol Concern. For a start, a 4p increase will be substantially more by the time beer reaches the bar and wholesalers, retailers and publicans have added extra pennies to maintain their margins. The likely increase will be round 6-8p a pint.
The result will be that pubs will be at an even greater disadvantage to supermarkets and off-licences, which will continue to promote cheap beer and other alcoholic drinks, with beer in particular being sold cheaper than bottled water.
The best way to tackle binge drinking among a minority is to encourage them to use pubs. Pubs are licensed premises. People drink moderately and sensibly in pubs and publicans can lose their licences if they allow unruly and drunken behaviour. Young people learn to drink sensibly in a pub atmosphere by mixing with older and more experienced drinkers.
Darling's price increase will encourage rather than deter excessive drinking on the streets as people forsake the pub for supermarkets. It's black day for pubs and pubgoers while the supermarket bosses will be rubbing their hands with glee.