I know that we're not supposed to say things like this but, regardless of how many brains he has, David Willetts is severely lacking in either common sense or any connection with the normal pubgoer. It seems that, bowing to the vigorous lobbying of national pub chains, he is to scrap the 1698 Act of Parliament that requires beer to be sold in pints (or fractions thereof). As we all know this act was brought in to stop unscrupulous publicans (for which read the operators of national pub chains) serving short measures. As the Sunday Telegraph reported:
In announcing his plans to change the law after 313 years, David Willetts – the Science Minister known, at least prior to this initiative, as “Two Brains” – claimed last week that the public wanted more choice when ordering drinks. “We have listened to consumers and businesses,” he said. “They have called for fixed quantities to be kept, but with greater flexibility.”
Sorry but we haven't. Of one thing I can be absolutely certain Mr Willets, no-one at the Fleece or the Club has ever - not even for a laugh - suggested that we needed 'greater flexibility' in the measures of drinks. In truth these proposals represent an unholy alliance between the big chains of pubs and the temperance campaigners - the pubs can rip us off by charging the same for 85% of a pint as they currently charge for a whole pint and the new puritans will get another restriction on the sale of booze.
At the moment we know where we are with beer - it comes served in a glass stamped with the crown to guarantee we get a full pint (except for Yorkshire folk who seem to think that half a glass of froth represents part of the pint). Under these proposals we won't know whether we're being ripped off or not - which, of course, explains the British Beer & Pub Association's enthusiasm for the whole idea.
In truth - just like the smoking ban - pub landlords and pubgoers don't need or want these changes. Only the big pub chains who want to sell overpriced alcoholic fizzy-pop to kids standing up in poorly lit town centre caverns want these changes. The rest of us are quite fed up with this kind of, at best purposeless at worst nannying, intervention to change things that don't need changing.
I sometimes wonder whether people like David Willetts ever go to pubs. But then I know the answer to that one - they go to carefully tarted up pubs that are really restaurants, they may have the occasional drink in a shiny wine bar but they aren't pubgoers. As a result we get a tightening of licensing regulations we don't need, a pointless and business-destroying smoking ban and, when there's a regulation that actually benefits the drinker, these folk want to get rid of it. I despair, I really do!