Minimum pricing

New plans for minimum alcohol pricing revealed by Welsh government

By Emily Sutherland contact

- Last updated on GMT

Alcohol would be priced at 50p per unit under the new plans
Alcohol would be priced at 50p per unit under the new plans

Related tags: Minimum pricing, Scotland, Wales

The Welsh government has published plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol.

Alcohol will have to be sold at a minimum price of 50p per unit under a further Public Health Bill. Research carried out for the Welsh government estimates that the 50p minimum would lead to at least 50 fewer deaths per year and prevent at least 1,400 hospital admissions.

The policy has drawn a mixed reaction from the industry, with those in favour suggesting minimum pricing will go some way to address the imbalance between heavily discounted alcohol sold in supermarkets and pub prices.

Nick Walton, licensing solicitor at the PMA’s ​legal specialist Poppleston Allen said: “On-trade pricing is unlikely to be affected as the selling price already exceeds the 50p per unit charge.  In the off-trade, there will be an impact-for example, a 1 litre bottle of whisky which can currently be purchased for £15 would automatically become £20 as it holds 40 units. Differential pricing between England and Wales will therefore be an issue.”

However, Wine and Spirit Trade Association chief executive Miles Beale argued that the policy will impact businesses and described minimum pricing as ‘entirely wrong.’ “Minimum Unit Pricing will unfairly ramp up the cost of over half of the drinks on supermarket shelves and hit Welsh drinkers with at least £55m extra on their drinks bill while doing nothing to tackle alcohol harm. It is entirely wrong that responsible consumers in Wales should be punished for the actions of an irresponsible few.

"The substantial cost of implementation and enforcement, as well as the risk of losing shoppers across the border, is likely to hit Welsh businesses and jobs and the UK Treasury is set to lose out in £11m in revenues directly.

“Additionally, there are serious questions about the legality of such a move. Not only is Minimum Pricing being challenged in the European Courts, there is a question over whether the Assembly will be allowed to fix prices in a competitive market when this is entirely contrary to UK Competition Law”.

Similar plans to introduce minimum pricing in Scotland have faced a lengthy legal battle from Scottish whisky makers, who argue it breaches European law. The Scottish case will be heard by the European Court of Justice later this year. 

Related topics: Legislation

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