The Committee received a presentation in relation to Substance Misuse.
Officers explained that there was a proven link between cheap alcohol and excessive drinking. Officers stated that the Public Health (Minimum Price for Alcohol) (Wales) Bill was approved by the National Assembly for Wales in June, and following Royal Assent would become law. Officers informed the Committee that alcohol consumption was costing the National Health Service in Wakes £150m per annum. Officers explained to Members that there was a formula for working out the Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) based on the strength and volume of a product. Officers informed Members that once the Bill had received Royal Assent that Local Authorities would receive powers to issue fixed notices to retailers who were not complying with the law. Officers explained that Trading Standards would need to be adequately resourced in order to provide effective enforcement when breaches occurred.
Officers informed the Committee that a consultation was currently taking place regarding the formula for the proposed unit pricing. Officers explained that there were issues arising from the introduction of the legislation such as the effect of MUP on dependent drinkers and whether they would detox in a safe environment, and whether some citizens would turn to crime in order to fund their habit. Officers commented that it was important to align services to respond to any issues that would arise as a result of the change to legislation. Officers stated that families with parents who were on low incomes that had a dependency on alcohol could be at risk as the parents may prioritise funding for their habits over the needs of their families’. Officers informed Members that there were also concerns around the production of alcohol at home and it was not fully understood how these issues would be addressed.
Officers concluded that the new legislation overall would make a positive impact. Officers explained that the new legislation would come into effect in the summer of 2019. Officers stated that communication would be really important to raise awareness and to address any misconceptions that the public may have. Officers informed Members that the Area Planning Board (APB) were preparing for the implementation of the legislation and were trying to understand the implications. Officers added that the APB had made links with Public Health Wales and Trading Standards.
Members queried whether the Welsh Government (WG) and APB were keeping an eye on developments in Scotland as they had already implemented the MUP. Officers stated that WG were in close contact with Scotland regarding implementation and any issues arising.
Members questioned what would prevent alcohol being brought into the country from England, as they had not made a commitment to introduce MUP. Officers stated that England were beginning to look at MUP, but were behind Scotland and Wales; however in the meantime there was no provision in legislation to prevent people bringing alcohol into Wales.
Members commented that Trading Standards required additional resources to effectively enforce compliance with the new legislation and that they were already under pressure. Officers stated that the WG had already made a commitment to provide extra funding for Trading Standards Departments in Wales. Members queried whether Trading Standards were ready for the demand created by the change to legislation. Officers stated that Trading Standards had a year to prepare for the increased demand generated by the new legislation.
Following scrutiny, the Committee noted the presentation.
The Vice Chair raised a suggestion on behalf of the Chair who was absent from the meeting to undertake a piece of work to investigate the issues being encountered in the Aberavon Ward in relation to substance misuse and anti-social behaviour. The Committee agreed to the proposal, but requested for the Port Talbot Ward to also be included in the investigation.