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Minimum alcohol price may exclude cider

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 07, 2012

Farmers in Devon and Somerset have warned they will go out of business if a proposed minimum alcohol price of 45p per unit gets the go-ahead

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Traditional cider could be exempt from a Government crackdown on cheap alcohol if it hits jobs in rural areas, a minister has conceded.

Farmers in the cider heartlands of Devon and Somerset have warned they will go out of business if a proposed minimum alcohol price of 45p per unit gets the go-ahead.

Questioned in the House of Commons by Devon MP Ben Bradshaw on the "devastating" impact the plan could have on the cider industry, Environment Minister Richard Benyon – whose department champions farming – said: "We are working on the issue with the Department of Health and the Home Office.

"We will raise with those departments any instances in which the measure would have a pernicious effect on the rural community, and exceptions may be forthcoming."

Cider makers have complained that drink sold directly from farms will double in price to £13-a-gallon, making their business unsustainable.

When the policy was announced last week, Julian Temperley, the Somerset-based producer credited with reviving the art of cider brandy production in Britain, said the plan risks "destroying" a cornerstone of Westcountry rural life.

The Government wants to outlaw ultra-cheap alcohol sold in supermarkets to tackle binge-drinking blighting Britain's high streets.

Mr Bradshaw, Exeter's Labour MP, said the Government should ditch the idea in its entirety.

He said: "Ministers have finally been forced to admit minimum alcohol pricing will have a 'pernicious' impact on Westcountry cider makers.

"They make vague references to possible 'exceptions' to protect cider makers – they must now publish the legal advice on this.

"I have serious doubts that it will be possible to draft exemptions for cider in general or farm gate sales in particular that would withstand legal challenge. It would be better if ministers were honest about this, stood up for our cider makers and stopped this damaging proposal now."

In the Commons, Farming Minister and Somerton and Frome MP David Heath confirmed – as reported in the Western Morning News last week – he is prohibited from speaking on the issue because of the number of cider makers in his Somerset constituency.

Mr Bradshaw went on: "He made a ridiculous spectacle in the Commons by refusing to answer questions on cider makers.

"Are education ministers now not to answer questions on schools if they have some in their constituency?"

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  • DaveyofCrnwal  |  December 09 2012, 7:12PM

    I'm ambivalent about these proposals as once again it seems to be a case of punishing the many for the misdeeds of the few. The powers that be then say that they are taxing people for their own good. As to the power of the proper scrumpy it really does have to be treated with respect as many years ago a mate of mine ended up break-dancing and being on cloud nine after just a couple of shillings-worth of the stuff (it was a LONG time ago) He commented that normally it would have cost several pounds to get as drunk as that. Allegedly the Police kept telling that cider house that they ought to water-down their cider as it was too strong for those who were not accustomed to it. Another mate informed me that when he worked in Taunton there were a lot of deranged people who were cider-alcoholics on a revolving door scheme at the mental hospital. Even worse were the antics of members of a certain holiday camp. Allegedly they would get absolutely wrecked, miss the bus back to the camp and walk. For amusement they would urinate through peoples letterboxes. It is alleged that one bloke must have been an acrobat as he managed to do a number 2 through someone's letterbox. Putting up prices will not stop bad behaviour because these excesses allegedly used to occur on pay-day when the miscreants had a whole weeks wages burning a hole in their pockets. There are already laws in place to prevent excessive drinking. It is for example illegal to serve alcohol to someone who is already drunk. NO NEW TAXES!

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