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COVER STORY – Welsh Assembly passes MUP

Move comes hot on the heels of Scotland

How the Senedd voted for the Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill

How the Senedd voted for the Public Health
(Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill

19 June – Welsh Government legislation allowing for a minimum price per unit of alcohol has been approved by Assembly Members (AMs) and is set to become law by summer 2019.

The Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill passed the latter stages in the Senedd – the final 45 votes to five – leaving lawmakers to consult on the price level by the end of 2018.

Health officials have stated the aim of the Bill is to cut the annual number of alcohol-related deaths (463 in 2015–16) and hospital admissions every year (approximately 54,000), and they see pricing as a ‘missing link’ in public health efforts. 

According to the Welsh adaptation of the Sheffield Alcohol Policy Model, although hazardous and harmful drinkers combined account for 22% of the whole population (approximately 28% of the drinker population), they drink 75% of (and are responsible for 67% of) all spending on all alcohol consumed in Wales. The model estimates the benefits of introducing minimum pricing in Wales at £882m over a 20-year period (£44m annually) and nearly 1,300 alcohol-attributable hospital admissions saved. It would also benefit harmful drinkers most, with 69% of the reduction in deaths being experienced by harmful drinkers, who account for just 4% of all Welsh drinkers.

Health Secretary Vaughan Gething told the Senedd that the Bill will provide an opportunity for a ‘step change’, taking a ‘sensible, targeted approach to a very real and evident problem’. He also stressed that it will ‘be supported by a range of additional actions being taken forward to support those in need – forming part of the Welsh Government’s wider substance misuse strategy.

‘Wales, like so many other western countries, has a problem with cheap, strong, readily available alcohol. This legislation will make an important contribution to addressing this issue.

‘Ultimately it gives us a chance to do more to try to save lives,’ he said.

Trade magazine Convenience Store gauged the opinions of some Welsh retailers. Tony Cristofaro, owner of Spar Landmark Place in Cardiff, expects the new law to follow the lead set by the minimum pricing legislation in Scotland.

‘From what I’ve heard from retailers in Scotland I don’t expect the law to have a massive impact on our sales,’ he said. ‘I expect it to be good for levelling the playing field between us and the multiples.

‘I would assume that the Welsh government will copy Scotland and set the minimum price at 50p, which would mean only a slight change in our product range as most lines we sell wouldn’t be affected.

John Prichard, owner of Londis Bethesda in Gwynedd, agreed that convenience store retailers in Wales need to have the right merchandising in order to prepare for the new legislation.

He said: ‘It’s a case of watch this space to see whether the government matches the minimum price in Scotland but we will need to have the right materials to let shoppers know about the changes.

‘What we’ve noticed in the past is that Wales tends to be a testing ground for the UK government in terms of legislation, like we saw with the plastic bags. It will be interesting to see how everyone reacts to the new law and whether England follows suit.’

Discussion and vote of the Bill at its final stage is available to view on the Senedd website.