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Welsh government plans minimum unit pricing

Welsh Minister for Social Services and Public Health Rebecca Evans yesterday unveiled a proposal to introduce a minimum price for the sale of alcohol.

Minimum unit pricing (MUP) or ‘floor pricing’ establishes a minimum price per measurement of alcohol. MUP is seen as a sophisticated measure to deal with extremely cheap alcohol sold in almost industrial quantities, and thus unlikely to significantly affect moderate drinkers. High-risk drinkers make up only a quarter of those who drink, but they drink 72% of all alcohol consumed and account for 65% of all spending. Minister Rebecca Evans today reaffirmed the “very clear and direct link between levels of excessive drinking and the availability of cheap alcohol". Though as yet unspecified, a 50p-a-unit formula would see a can of cider cost £1 and a bottle of wine at least £4.69.

There are over 50,000 alcohol related hospital admissions in Wales every year, and 463 alcohol related deaths in 2015. The estimated cost for the Welsh NHS is £120 million a year. Last year, statistics revealed that people in Wales are likelier to be binge drinkers than anywhere else in Britain.

Wales now follows in the footsteps of Scotland, where Members of the Scottish Parliament sought to introduce MUP in 2012. Following protracted legal wrangling, a final Supreme Court decision on the legality of MUP is thought to be imminent.

Ministers in Wales hope that the proposal will become law by next summer.