Tuesday 24 October 2017

'Pretty neutral on the debate'

The Welsh Assembly formally announced its plan to put a minimum price on alcohol yesterday. A figure of 50p per unit was bandied around by the media but that has not been decided. Depending on what Scotland does, I suspect that it could be 60p (which is what the 'public health' racket have been demanding since 2009). Either way, the minimum price will go up and up.

We have been hearing the usual lies about how minimum pricing will have little effect on moderate drinkers. This is based - as always - on fantasy modelling from the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group who define a moderate drinker as someone who drinks 5.5 units a week (they do this by including all the light and occasional drinkers and then averaging out their reported intake - which is less than they actually drink anyway).

Figures in the BBC report show how implausible is the claim that only heavy drinkers will be affected. The majority of off-trade alcohol will become more expensive under a 50p unit.

Alcohol sold below 50p per unit makes up 72% of the beer sales in Welsh shops and supermarkets, 78% of the cider sales, 42% of the wine and 66% of the spirits.

So let's debunk the myth that minimum pricing will only affect the very cheapest, super-strong alcohol. It will affect most of us while effectively exempting the rich. If the policy is introduced in Wales, the prices will be noticeably higher than in England and a booming cross-border trade is inevitable. Perhaps the Welsh will blame the English when the policy is seen to fail.

There is still the small matter of EU law to get around first. The UK supreme court is expected to deliver its verdict by the end of the year. The BBC's (anonymous) reporter revealed his or her bias in this now-deleted paragraph..

The Supreme Court is expected to give its judgement within weeks to an attempt to block Scotland's minimum price legislation from being introduced.

However, if all goes well, ministers in Wales hope it would become law by summer 2018.

Speaking of the BBC, I was approached about going on BBC Breakfast yesterday to debate the policy. The programme is based in Salford and they prefer guests to be in the studio so I wasn't very surprised to get a text from their researcher saying that I wouldn't be needed because they'd 'got someone who is coming into Salford who is pretty neutral on the debate. They just look at the likely impact of various policies...'

However, I was extremely surprised when I found out that this 'neutral' policy analyst was none other than Colin Angus of the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group who is personally and professionally invested in minimum pricing and has been advocating for the policy for the best part of a decade. He is, to all intents and purposes, an activist. If you want to see how 'neutral' he is, here's a reminder of the time he started howling at the moon when the charity Prostate Cancer UK refused to believe some junk science from Tim Stockwell.

Aside from a brief video clip of an ex-alcoholic saying that minimum pricing would have had no effect of him, there was nobody to challenge Angus and so he was free to make the entirely false claim that minimum pricing in Canada led to a fall in alcohol-related deaths and hospital admissions (an easily debunked myth that can be traced back to Stockwell again). 

You can see his performance here but if you want to hear an actual debate about the policy, you can listen to me and someone from Alcohol Concern on BBC Wales yesterday here (from 37 minutes).

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