Minimum alcohol pricing to come into force in March 2020

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Yesterday, the Senedd debated and voted on regulations which will see the introduction of a minimum per-unit price for alcohol sales (pdf; explanatory memorandum – pdf).

It follows a delay caused by a legal challenge at EU-level by the Portuguese Government, who expressed concern about the impact on the Portuguese wine industry.

The minimum price will be set through a formula: Minimum price-per-unit x Strength in % x volume in litres

The minimum price-per-unit has been set at 50p. Using the formula for the sake of giving an example, a standard twelve-pack of 330ml cans of 5% strength beer will cost a minimum of £9.90 (£0.50p x 5% x 3.96 litres ).

This is unlikely to affect pubs and clubs as many charge more than the minimum-per-unit price in the first place; it’s more likely to impact supermarkets, bulk suppliers and off licences.

Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), said this was a targeted measure aiming to reduce the 535 alcohol-related deaths in Wales each year. He promised a public information campaign for retailers and the public in the run-up to the regulations coming into force on 2nd March 2020.

Shadow Health Minister, Angela Burns AM (Con, Carms. W. & S. Pembs) wanted assurances that this would be part of a suite of broader measures, including proper support for alcoholics. The legislation had to be closely monitored and if it’s proven to reduce harm then other nations may follow Wales and Scotland.

Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) pointed to a report from Scotland which showed minimum pricing there may have had a positive impact, with a reduction in alcohol consumption (though it’s unclear whether this is down to general social trends than minimum pricing).

Before you prepare to set off for a booze cruise to Cribbs Causeway, Shrewsbury or Chester, the UK Government have been considering (though it’s unclear) introducing a similar law in England.

Also, the Minimum Alcohol Pricing Act 2018 is considered an experimental law and has a “sunset clause”, meaning there’ll be an opportunity for the Senedd to repeal it in 2024-25.

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