What is the WSTA’s position on Minimum Unit Pricing?
A minimum unit pricing policy, whether applied nationally or at a local level, is wrong both in principle and in practice. There is no real world evidence that minimum unit pricing would be effective in addressing alcohol misuse, as it has never been tried on a national basis anywhere in the world. It would penalise all consumers, especially families on low incomes and pensioners, rather than targeting problem drinkers. It would however harm businesses, distort trade and encourage substitution.
The WSTA is concerned about the introduction of minimum pricing in Scotland, set at 50p per unit, which began in May 2017 as well as concern for those wishing to introduce the policy nationwide. In Wales the policy is expected to be introduced in Autumn 2019, and the issue of cross border trade may put Welsh retailers at a disadvantage.
The Republic of Ireland
Legislation in the Republic of Ireland was enacted in 2018 which will restrict advertising including the structural separation of alcohol from other products in retail outlets, introduce mandatory health warnings and enforce minimum pricing. The law is expected to steadily come into effect over 3 years from 2018.
Aspects, including minimum pricing, are intended for introduction with Northern Ireland, to prevent cross border issues, however roll out of the policy may be delayed until the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly are back in operation.
As of early 2019, the UK’s Home Office and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care have made clear that Minimum Unit Pricing will not form part of their current alcohol strategy.
We believe, imposing a pricing policy in one area that is inconsistent with the rest of the UK imposes significant additional operating costs to the detriment of businesses and local economies. We will continue to oppose minimum pricing and make the case that alternative approaches will be more effective at reducing alcohol misuse.