Minimum pricing could harm pub trade

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

War against binge drinking: a new minimum unit pricing policy for retailers has come into force in Wales
War against binge drinking: a new minimum unit pricing policy for retailers has come into force in Wales

Related tags Wales Minimum alcohol pricing

Pub industry representatives do not believe minimum alcohol pricing in supermarkets and shops will benefit the on-trade, following the introduction of a minimum price in Wales.

Under the Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Act 2018, retailers must charge at least 50p a unit, which means a typical bottle of wine will cost no less than £4.69.

Welsh policymakers believe this will serve to benefit consumer health and have echoed the system implemented in Scotland in May 2018.

Wales’s health minister Vaughan Gething said: “It's not about making alcohol unaffordable, it is addressing the most harmful and damaging alcohol – high-strength, cheap alcohol.”

Many operators are concerned by the prevalence of cheap drinks in the off-trade when compared to the higher prices pubs have to charge. 

Sector representatives were critical that the new pricing system would benefit Welsh publicans given the burden of other costs on pubs and impact on the consumer’s wallet. 

Head of lifestyle economics at the free market think-tank Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Christopher Snowdon said the evidence from Scotland did not suggest any benefit to pubs.

He said: “The sale of alcohol fell by the equivalent of 0.1 litres of pure ethanol per adult in the Scottish off-trade in 2018. 

“The main beneficiary has been the convenience store sector, which has been shifting 8% more alcohol under minimum pricing. 

“If anything, minimum pricing is likely to harm the pub trade by leaving drinkers with less money in their pocket with which to go out.”

Healthier attitudes

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said the organisation did not believe the move would limit binge drinking in the country.

She said: “We are supportive of efforts to promote healthier attitudes to alcohol, provided they are strictly evidence-based.

“Minimum unit pricing is a very blunt and limited instrument, and we are worried that there is little substantive evidence its introduction in Wales would curb harmful drinking. 

“At the same time, it will increase costs at a time when businesses are already being squeezed.”

Emma McClarkin, chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said she believed the impact of such a policy should be carefully evaluated before a proposal is considered in England.

She said: “In tackling alcohol related harm, it is education and awareness, through support for Drinkaware and other awareness programmes, that delivers the most effective results.

"This, alongside partnership working between industry, local communities, police and the public health authorities can have real long-term benefits.”

There are no plans to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol in England.

Related topics Legislation

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