Thursday, 18 October 2018

Taxpayer-funded pressure group wants higher taxes

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill passed in Ireland two weeks ago. Temperance lobbyists around the world are drooling in anticipation because it includes many of their favourite neo-prohibitionist policies, notably minimum pricing, cancer warnings, severe advertising restrictions and a display ban of sorts.

For the sake of Irish consumers, I'd sooner this law hadn't been passed but the consolation is that I can watch these wrong-headed policies fail. I doubt that many small shops will bother with the booze burqa and the Irish government will spend years battling the EU over mandatory health warnings.

Irish nanny statists were hoping that Northern Ireland would bring in minimum pricing at the same time as the Republic, but there's no government in Northern Ireland so that won't be happening any time soon, and with the unit price set at €1 (88p)* there will be plenty of activity over that precious soft border.

Loyal readers will recall that the Public Health (Alcohol) Ireland Bill was sold to the public by Alcohol Action Ireland, which is almost entirely funded by taxpayers. In case the sockpuppetry wasn't obvious enough, they set up another group - the Alcohol Health Alliance - which was specifically and explicitly created ‘to support the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill’. In addition to writing submissions to government as ‘an independent [sic] voice for advocacy and policy change’ and promoting the legislation in the media, Alcohol Action Ireland set up a webpage which enabled its supporters to lobby their parliamentary representative with a standardised e-mail (‘I urge you to please support the implementation of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, in full’ etc.). In 2016, Ireland’s Department of Health gave Alcohol Action Ireland an additional €75,000 ‘to engage with the EU to build support for the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill’.

Government lobbying government doesn't get more blatant than this. The money given to these campaigners by government was, as one Irish politician noted 'a circular kind of transaction'.

Despite the British government's anti-sockpuppet grant standards, sockpuppetry remains rife in Britain too, especially in the local and devolved governments (where the clause doesn't apply). Take Balance Northeast, for instance. Wholly funded by the hard-pressed taxpayers in the north-east via 14 local authorities, they produced a press release today in advance of the Budget:

Strong support for higher alcohol taxes to help fund public services

New figures released today show that nearly half (49%) of North Easterners support increasing alcohol taxes if the money raised went into funding public services impacted by alcohol use, such as the NHS and police.

So less than half of North Easterners support increasing alcohol taxes even if they are told that the money will be hypothecated for the NHS and police, which it won't be. Not exactly a thumping mandate, but Balance commissioned the survey and had to make the best of it.

A better question might have been 'Would you support using more of the £13 billion drinkers pay in alcohol taxes to pay for alcohol-related services?' Or perhaps 'Would you support defunding temperance pressure groups like Balance Northeast to pay for alcohol-related services?'

Instead, drinkers and non-drinkers alike are forced to pay for parasitic organisations like Balance Northeast to lobby for still higher taxes. It really beggars belief that, after years of 'austerity' which have seen severe budget cuts in local government, local authorities are still squandering taxpayers' money on these people.

* An Irish unit is 10 grams of alcohol. The equivalent of a UK unit will be €0.80 (70p).

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