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BMA welcomes minimum alcohol unit pricing

Woman buying alcohol in shop, Pregnancy
'There is robust evidence that this will help reduce excessive alcohol consumption and misuse' - BMA Welsh council chair Philip Banfield

Plans to introduce the minimum pricing of alcohol in Wales have been welcomed by BMA Cymru Wales.

Moves to introduce a minimum price of 50p per unit were first unveiled in July 2015 but were scrapped because of an ongoing court case between the Scottish Government, which also wants to introduce minimum pricing, and the Scotch Whisky Association.

Its appeal against a minimum price in Scotland is expected to be heard by the Supreme Court next month.

The Welsh Government announced the plans as part of its legislative programme over the next 12 months.

BMA Cymru Wales Welsh council chair Phil Banfield said: 'We wholeheartedly welcome Welsh Government’s announcement to introduce legislation making it illegal for alcohol to be sold below a set price, as there is robust evidence that this will help reduce excessive alcohol consumption and misuse.

'BMA Cymru Wales has previously called for such measures; namely to implement a minimum price for alcohol, to ensure that alcohol cannot be sold below cost – in effect making it cheaper than water to purchase.

'While alcohol in moderation forms part of many people's social behaviour, alcohol excess or addiction destroys lives. It is associated with crime, violence and anti-social behaviour, and can impact significantly on family and community life.

'We believe that such a move will save lives through a reduction in alcohol consumption and firmly upholds people’s health as a priority in Wales.'

 

Obstacles

There may, however, be a stumbling block. The Wales Act 2017 sets out a new reserved powers list for Wales' devolution settlement – with the licensing of alcohol being on that list.

However, a Welsh Government spokesperson said it believed powers to introduce minimum pricing was within its competence.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: 'We first consulted on a draft Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill in 2015 and published a summary of all consultation responses in March 2016.

'The majority of stakeholders were supportive of our plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol, recognising the importance of the price of alcohol in affecting levels of consumption among harmful and hazardous drinkers.

'Following the election, the current Welsh Government has been monitoring developments in Scotland, prior to making a final decision on whether to introduce similar legislation in Wales.

'Tackling alcohol misuse remains a key priority for us and it is critical we use the levers we have available in Wales in order to support people to improve their health and reduce inequalities. One of those levers, which we are confident is within our competence, is introducing legislation on minimum pricing for alcohol.'

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