Wales set to follow Scotland in minimum alcohol pricing bill vote

Wales is expected to follow Scotland’s example and implement minimum alcohol unit pricing, with the bill set to be voted on in the Senedd today.

If passed, and if Wales also opts to set the minimum unit price at 50 pence, the bill means that a can of cider would cost at least £1 and a bottle of wine £4.69.

Initially proposed by public health minister, Rebecca Evans, cabinet secretary for health and social services, Vaughan Gething, was put in charge of the bill following a change in ministerial portfolios in November 2017.

The bill passed stage 3 of the approval process last week (12 June) which involved a detailed consideration of the bill by the Welsh Assembly and a series of amendments being suggested. The bill as it stands post-stage 3 can be viewed here. 

If passed, the Welsh government will open up a public consultation as to what the minimum price should be, with the aim of introducing the bill in 2019.

As reported by the BBC, alcohol sold below 50p per unit accounts for 72% of beer sales in Welsh shops and supermarkets, 78% of cider sales, 42% of wine sales and 66% of the spirits.

According to the Senedd website, the bill includes provision for the following:

  • the formula for calculating the applicable minimum price for alcohol by multiplying the percentage strength of the alcohol, its volume and the minimum unit price (MUP);
  • powers for Welsh ministers to make subordinate legislation to specify the MUP;
  • the establishment of a local authority-led enforcement regime with powers to bring prosecutions;
  • powers of entry for authorised officers of a local authority, an offence of obstructing an authorised officer and the power to issue fixed penalty notices (FPNs).

Alcohol up to 1.2% ABV, as well as “aromatic flavouring essence” for example Angostura Bitters are not including in the minimum alcohol pricing bill.

As with Scotland’s law, there is a sunset clause, meaning that the minimum pricing provisions will automatically be repealed after 6 years if the legislation is not renewed.

Speaking when the bill was first proposed, Evans commented: “Alcohol-related harm is a significant public health problem in Wales. The 463 alcohol-attributable deaths in 2015 were all avoidable, and each of these deaths would have had a devastating effect on the person’s family and friends. Alcohol-related harm also has a big impact on public services such as the NHS.”

“There is a very clear and direct link between levels of excessive drinking and the availability of cheap alcohol. So we need to take decisive action now to address the affordability of alcohol, as part of wider efforts to tackle alcohol related harm.”

“The bill will tackle excessive alcohol consumption by making it an offence for retailers to sell strong alcohol at low prices. It will make an important contribution to improving health outcomes, by putting prevention and early intervention at the heart of our efforts to reduce alcohol-related harm. This will undoubtedly help save lives”.

For more information about the bill, please click here.

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