This week, I was sent an email from Drinker’s Alliance, reminding me of the upcoming Budget which Mr. Darling will release on 22 April. In the past, Drinker’s Alliance encouraged people to write to their MPs in favour of scrapping an increased alcohol tax, sign petitions, spread the word, and more. This time, however, they included direct links to both a pre-drafted email to the office of Alistair Darling, (which you can modify if you wish) as well as the phone number to the office (with a form to report back the office’s retort).
As I am opposed to this rise in taxes, I sent an email (highly modified from the form), and the next day received a generated response from the ‘enquiry unit’. I was told the alcohol duty increases “were not designed to tackle problem drinking" and instead were “an important revenue stream" for the government. Finally they finished off their response with “the police, local authorities, and others have the powers to stop [those abusing the right to drink] and are encouraged to use them." What exactly they mean by ‘powers’ for ‘others’ I am quite unsure of, and am inclined to ask for further clarification. The justification for their increase the alcohol duty is tenuous, rude, and most of all – unfair. The government should be looking for ways to decrease wasteful spending and stop punishing the citizens of Britain for the government’s mistakes. [Click 'Read More' to view the email exchange]
Email sent to the Treasury
I am writing to express my extreme concern that you wish to raise the price of drinks in the Budget, by increasing tax on alcohol.
During these economic times an extra tax on those who are dealing with increased prices, from basic necessities to those nonessential items, is the wrong answer.
Furthermore, given the potential jobs which can be targeted by an alcohol tax hike, it is appalling to think that the government wishes to place nearly 75,000 jobs at risk for a profit from this particular tax. In fact, your own Angela Eagle has stated that the government sees this tax increase as a "revenue stream", however there are more wise approaches to the budget which should be addressed. These approaches can include, but are certainly not limited to: public workers and government taking pay cuts, as many citizens have been forced to do; or correcting the unfair welfare state and requiring individuals work for part of their welfare - saving Britain money whilst preventing the loss of jobs to foreign workers. Following the smoking ban, which has already hurt the British pub institution, increasing taxes on alcohol will further drive the knife into the local pubs and lead to more closing on a daily basis.
I ask you to protect ordinary people like myself, who are already struggling with rising prices in this downturn. Also, I would ask for your support in protecting businesses in Britain, many of which may suffer unnecessarily if drink prices are raised further.
All of us are aware that there are a small minority who misuse alcohol but it is not fair if all of us are punished.
I ask you to put pressure on other Government departments to ensure that existing laws to crack down on problem drinkers are enforced. This is far better than pushing through a blanket measure that will only sting ordinary drinkers and do nothing to tackle alcohol misuse.
I look forward to your reply.
Thank you for your email.
The alcohol duty increases announced at Budget 2008 and in the Pre-Budget Report were not designed to tackle problem drinking but they will play their part in ensuring we can continue to fund the Government’s spending priorities.
Alcohol duty is an important revenue stream for the Government and there are currently no plans to change what was announced in the Budget and Pre-Budget Report 2008, though as with all taxes, alcohol duty rates will be kept under review.
Your email also mentions enforcement of current policies to deal with irresponsible drinkers. Whilst the vast majority of people consume alcohol responsibly there are undoubtedly some individuals who cause problems. The Government takes the problems associated with alcohol misuse seriously and has an important role to play: in making sure people are able to make informed choices, and encouraging drinkers to drink responsibly; in making sure businesses sell alcohol responsibly; and in making clear that individual choice is never an excuse for causing harm and distress to others, and that the police, local authorities, and others have the powers to stop this and are encouraged to use them.
H M Treasury