James Evison 16 September 2016

Whitehall blocks minimum alcohol pricing plans

Plans for the Welsh government to introduce minimum alcohol pricing have been blocked by Whitehall.

The Welsh Assembly had wanted to introduce a minimum alcohol unit price of 50p but Westminster has boycotted the move, stating that alcohol law falls under policing and criminal justice powers, which are still controlled centrally.

Local authorities in the principality want powers to be devolved, and even put a clause into the Wales Bill earlier this year calling for an extension to policing.

The Assembly wanted the move on health grounds, believing that control of pricing would have significant public health, social and crime related benefits.

A report from the devolved body had suggested as much as £900m could be saved over a 20 year cycle if the unit pricing move was allowed – alongside around a reduction in 50 deaths a year.

The British Medical Association Cymru has supported the move, also claiming it would save lives.

But the Association of Multiple Retailers, who represent pubs, bars and late-night venues across the UK, said that Welsh councils already had powers to work with the licensed trade to reduce alcohol consumption and provide public health benefits.

Chief executive of the ALMR, Kate Nicholls, said: 'Minimum unit pricing is a very blunt tool and we do not believe that it would have had the intended effect of tackling problem drinking in Wales.

'If councils is Wales are concerned about any perceived health harms related to alcohol consumption, they would be best placed to avoid any measures that promote the responsible consumption of alcohol in a supervised environment and do more to promote it in favour of unrestricted off-trade alcohol.'

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