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Wales: Alcohol pricing is a legislative priority

The Welsh Government will introduce legislation that will make it illegal for alcohol to be sold below a set price.

Evidence shows a direct link between drinking harmful levels and the availability of cheap alcohol. As one of the government’s five Bills, the Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) Bill will propose a formula for calculating the minimum price for alcohol, based on its strength and volume, and enable local authorities to enforce the powers and bring prosecutions.

The minimum pricing plans are expected to be policed by local councils, if implemented.

In his statement, First Minister Carwyn Jones sounded a bullish tone about his intentions for the legislative programme. He said: “The Bills we intend to introduce during the second year of this Assembly [including tackling harmful alcohol consumption] will support our efforts to build a Wales that is healthy and active, prosperous and secure, ambitious and learning and united and connected."

Former Deputy Minister for Health Vaughan Gething sought to introduce a minimum unit price of 50 pence per unit in the previous government, arguing that it would be worth almost £900m to the Welsh economy in terms of reductions in illness, crime and workplace absence over 20 years, would lead to 50 fewer deaths a year, help prevent 1,400 hospital admissions, and would lead to an estimated 3,684 fewer offences a year.

But UK ministers denied the previous administration the chance to control alcohol law, maintaining instead that it should remain reserved to Westminster as it is closely linked to policing, both of which are controlled by the Home Office.

The proposal also depends on the result of a Supreme Court challenge against minimum unit pricing by the Scottish Government, to be announced later this year.