Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Questions (490)

Terence Flanagan


490. Deputy Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Health his plans to deal with below cost selling of alcohol; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24270/14]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Addressing the price of alcohol is an important component of any long-term strategic approach to tackling alcohol misuse. There is a link between consumption and harm and evidence that affordability is one of the drivers of increased consumption. The Government has approved an extensive package of measures to deal with alcohol misuse, to be incorporated in a Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. These measures are based on the recommendations contained in the Steering Group Report on a National Substance Misuse Strategy.

The Government has decided that minimum unit pricing is the most effective policy measure to deal with the sale of alcohol at cheap prices. Minimum unit pricing is a mechanism of imposing a statutory floor in price levels per gram of alcohol that must be legally observed by retailers in both the on and off trade sector. This is a targeted measure, designed to prevent the sale of alcohol at very cheap prices. It is mainly aimed at those who are higher risk, such as adolescents and people who have a harmful and hazardous alcohol consumption pattern. It should therefore only have a marginal effect on moderate drinkers. It is not expected that minimum unit pricing will affect the price of alcohol in the on-trade sector or the majority of alcohol products sold in the off-trade sector.

A health impact assessment, in conjunction with Northern Ireland, has been commissioned as part of the process of developing a legislative basis for minimum unit pricing. The assessment will study the impact of different minimum prices on a range of areas such as health, crime and likely economic impact. The study should be finalised shortly. Work on developing a framework for the necessary Department of Health legislation is continuing. It is hoped to publish a General Scheme of a Bill shortly.