Wales politics

Minimum alcohol price ruling welcomed by Welsh Government

Row of bottles of wine on shelf Image copyright Thinkstock

Welsh ministers have welcomed a ruling that clears the way for it to impose minimum prices on alcohol.

The Supreme Court has dismissed a challenge by the Scotch Whisky Association to Scottish Government plans to introduce minimum pricing.

Wales' Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething said it was a clear judgment that it was a proportionate way to tackle harmful drinking.

Welsh ministers hope a bill making the change will become law by summer 2018.

Legislation was approved by the Scottish Parliament five years ago but has been tied up in court challenges.

In a unanimous judgment, seven Supreme Court judges said the legislation did not breach European Union law and was a "proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim".

In Wales, ministers believe tackling excessive drinking could save a life a week and mean 1,400 fewer admissions to Welsh hospitals a year.

If a 50p-a-unit formula were used, a typical can of cider would be at least £1 and a bottle of wine at least £4.69.

A typical litre of vodka, for example, would have to cost more than £20.

However the Welsh Government has not yet decided what the price will be.

On Wednesday, Mr Gething said: "The Welsh Government will now consider any detailed implications of the judgment for the Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill, which was introduced to the National Assembly for Wales on 23 October.

"In the meantime, we welcome this clear, unanimous judgment that minimum pricing is an appropriate and proportionate means of tackling hazardous and harmful drinking."

Plaid Cymru's public health spokesman Dai Lloyd said his party supported action to tackle heavy drinking, adding: "What's important now is that the Welsh Government acts quickly to introduce minimum alcohol pricing before the UK Government's Wales Act kicks in and strips the Welsh Government of the power to legislate in this field."

Andy Glyde, Cancer Research UK's public affairs manager in Wales, said the ruling was "great news".

"We hope it will clear the way for the Welsh Government to press ahead with its plans to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol in Wales," he added.

"Alcohol is linked to seven types of cancer including breast and bowel cancer, and the more you drink the greater your risk of cancer."

However, the Welsh Retail Consortium has expressed concern that minimum pricing may hit less affluent, moderate consumers of alcohol "whilst not necessarily having the desired impact on problem drinkers".

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