Minimum price of alcohol is not a silver bullet, says National Assembly committee
A proposed law which would see a minimum price set per unit of alcohol sold in Wales is not a silver bullet that will address all alcohol-related harm and could have unintended consequences, says a National Assembly committee.
While supporting the general principles of the Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill, the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee is concerned that higher alcohol prices may have a negative impact on dependent drinkers, and could push some drinkers towards other, more harmful substances.
The Committee was told by users of an alcohol recovery centre that higher prices wouldn’t necessarily deter them or they would find alternatives, including turning to drugs such as Spice.
But the Welsh Government says the Bill is aimed at those classed as hazardous and harmful drinkers, who consume more than recommended guidelines, rather than alcoholics.
The Committee supports the idea of a minimum unit price for alcohol but wants to see it as part of a wider package of measures and support services to reduce alcohol dependency.
“The Committee welcomes the principle outlined in the Bill and believes minimum unit pricing will go some way to improving the health of a significant cohort of the Welsh population,” said Dai Lloyd AM, Chair of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee.
“We have some concerns about unintended consequences, including the possibility of driving heavy drinkers towards other behaviours which negatively affect their health, including diverting money away from food in order to purchase alcohol or substituting alcohol for unregulated, illegal substances.
“We are also not convinced by the Welsh Government’s position that this Bill will not impact heavy drinkers and alcoholics.
“We see this Bill as part of a wider package of measures that are needed to reduce alcohol-related harm in Wales.”
The Committee has acknowledged that minimum unit pricing will place additional requirements on retailers but was not persuaded that there would be an insurmountable cost and administrative burden placed on retailers operating different price structures in different parts of the UK.
Assembly Members also believe evaluation of the legislation is critical, and have suggested the Welsh Government looks to the early experience of minimum unit pricing in Scotland, which will begin in May, as a way of informing implementation in Wales.
The Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill will now be debated in a meeting of the full Assembly on 13 March before a vote to decide whether it can proceed to the next stage of the Assembly’s law-making process.
Read the full report:
Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol)Wales Bill: (PDF, 1 MB)