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Plaid Cymru calls on the Labour government to clarify its position on alcohol pricing

30/12/2021

Plaid Cymru’s Health Spokesperson, Elin Jones AM, has called on the Labour Welsh Government to clarify its policy on alcohol pricing, after the First Minister appeared to u-turn on his party’s manifesto pledge. The Plaid Cymru AM for Ceredigion also expressed concern that the Labour First Minister’s comments on the matter went against the spirit of devolution.

In its manifesto, Labour pledged to press for powers from Westminster in order to introduce a minimum price per unit of alcohol. This was confirmed in a statement by the new Labour government in Wales which was published on the Scottish government’s website.

Now the First Minister appears to have changed his stance on the matter. In answer to a question from a Plaid Cymru AM, the First Minister claimed that having different policies in different UK nations would create problems.

Plaid Cymru has argued the case for the devolution of alcohol pricing for many years, as a means of reducing the consumption of cheap drinks that are often popular with under-age and people with drink related problems. Research has shown that the move would have a positive effect on drinking habits, on the number of hospital admissions and the number of alcohol-related deaths, as well as on crime, lost work days and employment.

Plaid Cymru’s Health spokesperson Elin Jones AM said:

“On yet another issue, Labour in Wales has clearly decided to sit back and do nothing. Previously they had conceded that Plaid Cymru’s policy on the introduction of minimum alcohol pricing would be beneficial. Yet now the First Minister seems to back u-turning on that, saying that the policy should not be introduced in Wales unless it is also introduced in England.

“The argument made by the First Minister is ridiculous and it’s contrary to the basic principles of devolution. The basis of devolution is to create policies for Wales, in Wales, and for the benefit of the people of Wales, regardless of the policies of the other UK nations.

“This apparent u-turn smacks of the same old ‘do-nothing’ attitude which has already become a trademark of Labour in Wales.”

 

In reply to a question by Plaid Cymru’s Simon Thomas, the First Minister said:

“As regards alcohol pricing, the major problem—and this will be a problem in Scotland—is that if you have different prices either side of the border, people will just cross the border to buy alcohol on the other side. This will be a problem in Scotland if they proceed with their policy on alcohol pricing. It would be far more effective if the same policy were to be adopted in England, Scotland and Wales, as this would ensure that there is no difference in the price of alcohol between the three nations” (Plenary 29/11/11, page 11)

In a quote supplied by the Welsh Government which is published on the Scottish Government’s website, the Welsh Government is quoted as saying: "The Welsh Government welcomes this news and would like to see a minimum price per unit of alcohol also introduced in Wales. While we believe that the case for the introduction of a minimum price remains strong, the power to introduce such measures in Wales currently lie with the UK Government.

"We requested power to legislate on alcohol licensing but this was rejected by the UK Government. This would have enabled us to take action to introduce our own controls on licensing to tackle the availability of alcohol."