Wales politics

Minimum alcohol pricing for Wales back on table

Beers in fridge Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Research suggests minimum pricing could save nearly £900m over 20 years by cutting crime and illness

Plans to introduce a new law setting a minimum price for alcohol in Wales could be revived by the Welsh Government.

Under the plans, the cost of alcohol would be determined by a formula based on its strength and volume.

The proposal depends on the result of a Supreme Court challenge against similar plans by the Scottish Government.

It is one of five laws included in Welsh ministers' legislative programme for the year ahead.

The minimum pricing plans are expected to be policed by local councils, if implemented.

The Welsh Government said it is confident that the legislation would be within the powers of the assembly.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The drinks industry is against a minimum price for alcohol

Plans to regulate the price of alcohol in Wales were first introduced in July 2015 but were put on hold because of the assembly election in 2016 and a decision by judges in Scotland to refer the government in Edinburgh's alcohol cost plans to the Supreme Court.

A spokesman for UKIP in the assembly said the plan was "another example of nanny-statism" and accused the Welsh Government of invading people's lives by increasing the cost of one of their favourite activities.

"The Welsh Government opts for price controls which hit the poorest and fail to tackle the underlying social issues which create alcoholism and overconsumption," he said.

Appeal

The Scotch Whisky Association's appeal against a minimum price in Scotland is expected to be heard by Britain's highest court next month.

Research suggested a charge of 50p per unit in Wales would save nearly £900m over 20 years by cutting crime and illness, with 50 fewer deaths a year.

But when the Welsh Government first introduced its plans, a drinks industry spokesman said they would "ramp up" prices while "doing nothing" to tackle alcohol harm.

Other proposals in the Welsh Government's legislative programme include scrapping letting agents' fees, which have already been banned in Scotland, while the UK government has consulted on doing the same in England.

Over the next 12 months, the Welsh Government will also legislate to introduce its offer of 30 hours of free childcare for 48 weeks of the year for working parents of three to four-year-olds.

Six councils will test the childcare scheme from September 2017 before a wider roll-out at a later date.

Ministers also intend to put local government reform on the statute book and consult on introducing a ban on smacking children next year.


New laws

Image caption A ban on agents' fees for tenants is among the proposals

The Welsh Government proposes the following assembly bills for the next 12 months:

  • Regulatory Reform of Registered Social Landlords Bill
  • Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) Bill
  • Childcare Offer Application Processing Bill
  • Fees Charged to Tenants in the Private Rented Sector Bill
  • Local Government Bill

First Minister Carwyn Jones has also said ministers could introduce a so-called Continuity Bill - proposed by Plaid Cymru AM Steffan Lewis as a measure to enshrine all existing EU regulations in Welsh law - if the UK government does not respect the devolution settlement post-Brexit.

Mr Jones said: "The bills we intend to introduce during the second year of this assembly will support our efforts to build a Wales that is healthy and active, prosperous and secure, ambitious and learning and united and connected."

"As I have repeatedly made clear, the UK government must respect the devolution settlement," he added.

"If this does not happen, we will consider other options, such as a Continuity Bill, to protect Wales' interests."

Plaid leader Leanne Wood said: "Minimum pricing and banning letting agents fees are Plaid policies which the Labour government has been very slow to act upon.

"I am also very concerned that it will take in effect almost an entire assembly term to get a new system of childcare up and running."

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