Vaughan Gething, Deputy Minister for Health
The Minister for Health and Social Services announced the intention to bring forward a draft Bill for consultation to establish a minimum unit price for alcohol on June 9 during the legislative statement on the Public Health (Wales) Bill.
As Deputy Minister for Health, with responsibility for substance misuse, I am pleased to publish today the draft Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill for consultation. A children and young person’s version of the consultation paper is also being published.
Alcohol misuse leads to a range of health and social harms, particularly for the significant minority of people who drink to excess and do not recognise the harm they are doing to themselves or the people around them. In 2013, there were 467 alcohol-related deaths in Wales and alcohol misuse is estimated to cost the NHS in Wales around £109m a year in hospital admissions alone.
There has been some progress in reducing alcohol consumption among some age groups in Wales but research shows that drinking among young people remains a concern - 17% of boys and 14% of girls aged 11 to 16 drank alcohol at least once a week in 2009/10. (the last data available).
Governments have a role to play in addressing the health harms associated with alcohol misuse and creating the right environment to support people to make changes to their own lifestyles, which have a positive impact on their long-term health and wellbeing.
In terms of alcohol consumption, we can do this in a number of ways. One of the most important measures available is legislation, including action to control the price and affordability of alcohol, as we know this is a key factor in reducing both consumption and alcohol-related harm.
There is clear evidence that a minimum unit price for alcohol (MUP) has a positive impact on health and social harms as people who drink to harmful or hazardous levels benefit most.
The Welsh Government commissioned the Sheffield Alcohol Research Group, at Sheffield University, to model the potential impact of a range of alcohol pricing policies. It published the Model-based appraisal of minimum unit pricing for alcohol in Wales1 report in December 2014, which concluded there are a number of benefits of introducing this policy in Wales.
The Welsh Government believes minimum unit pricing is a key public health measure which should be pursued in Wales. Other countries have recognised its potential in improving health and wellbeing, such as the Irish Government, which is keen to introduce a minimum unit price. The Scottish Parliament has passed similar legislation – the Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 – which has been referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union for consideration on points of European competition law. We will monitor the outcome of this case closely.
In view of the significant public health challenges associated with alcohol use, we should not stop the development of our own legislation while awaiting the final outcome of the Court of Justice of the European Union’s deliberations on the Scottish legislation.
I look forward to the outcome of the public consultation on the draft Bill and further stakeholder engagement, including any scrutiny the National Assembly wishes to undertake of the draft Bill so the next Welsh Government will be in a position to introduce a Bill early in the next Assembly.
The consultation will close on December 11, 2015.