I welcome the Minister and the opportunity to speak about the Bill. I support its main principles, but I have a few reservations which I hope to address in the next couple of minutes. The main aim of the Bill is to have some control. We have had an uneasy relationship with alcohol in this country over many years. The aims of the Bill include a minimum unit price, new labelling and structure separation. The overall aim is to reduce the adult consumption of alcohol.
The first issue I want to address is the minimum unit. This is the key issue in the Bill. We have seen strong evidence that when the price of alcohol goes up, the level of harm goes down. That has been proved time and again. The main aim must be to target the cheap supply of alcohol. We have seen time and again, especially the summer, large groups of young people - I am not picking on young people - going into places and walking out with slabs of alcohol, slabs of cheap beer, on their shoulders. That issue needs to be addressed. One can probably get 22 or 23 cans or bottles of beer for €20. That beer is being bought to drink in an uncontrolled environment. In the past, when we were all that little bit younger and went out to have a social drink, we probably had it in the pub where it was controlled. If a person drank too much, he or she was told to go home or, more to the point, was brought home. We have a situation now where there is no control whatsoever. Cheap alcohol is being produced and sold. That is a key issue that needs to be addressed. A main aim of the Bill is to have a minimum unit price. It is a starting point but we are not going far enough.
There has been much talk about the labelling issue. It is to be mandatory for labels on alcohol products to include information on grams of alcohol, calories, dangers to women and so on, which are very important. Like previous speakers, I have certain concerns about the word "cancer" being put on labels. Cancer can be caused by a number of things. I am not a medical person, but I have concerns about it.
Like previous speakers, I express my support for local breweries and distilleries which have been a good news story in the past few years. We have seen them spring up around the country. The Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, of which I am Chairman, produced a report on the future of the tillage sector recently. One of the key drivers of and support for the tillage sector is the development of local breweries.
The development of these breweries is very beneficial to the promotion of tourism in an area. I refer to the opening of a new distillery in Carlow, Walsh Whiskey Distillery. That is a €25 million investment in a local area that is crying out for something different from a tourism point of view. It exports to 45 countries around the world. In order for it to comply with the regulations, the company will have to have two lines producing two labels for two bottles. That is a huge cost but not only that once its bottle arrives somewhere in Europe, it will be put on a shelf beside a bottle with no label. It will be a huge disincentive in terms of promoting its product around the world. We must look at the European angle in that regard. There is a need for a European label in order that we will all be playing on a level field. That is a huge issue.
I support the principle of the Bill, but the labelling issue and the cost involved need to be looked at again. We are promoting these breweries and distilleries, but we should not tie their hands behind their backs as they move forward.
The other issue is advertising with which I have a major issue. I ask the Minister to look at it again. Going back to my local distillery, Walsh Whiskey Distillery, the proprietor is a man called Bernard Walsh. He is an ambassador in terms of the promotion of tourism in Carlow, a county that is crying out for it. He is the face of that product in the area, but in the future he will not be allowed to use his or his family's photograph on whatever advertisements he may have and - correct me if I am wrong - he will not be allowed to advertise in an open space. A tourist or tourist bus coming to Carlow to visit the distillery and the visitor's centre which Mr. Walsh is proposing to build, will not be able to find the place without Google maps. It is an issue we need to address. It is important that we do not tie the hands of people who are trying to promote and develop these products.
I compliment the Minister on his engagement on structural separation. This issue generated much debate and interest, but we have come to a reasonable compromise. There are two issues, namely, the big multiples and the small corner shop. We should not disadvantage the small corner shop in a rural area to the advantage of the big multiples.
The final issue I want to bring to the Minister's attention is education.
We cannot emphasise enough that it is the key issue. Culture is very important, but we saw the smoking ban come in. Who would have thought, 20 years ago, that such a thing would be introduced? Looking at a different area, there are safety belts in cars. Some of us who may be a little older will remember hopping into a car with no safety belts. One just drove on and everything was okay and there may have been six or seven in the back of the car. I will probably exempt the Minister from this particular discussion, but culture has changed where these things are concerned. The only way we can change the culture relating to alcohol in general is by educating people and children at a young age about the dangers of alcohol. Drink can be taken in moderation. I do not mean to be a spoilsport and do not think anybody does. I enjoy a drink socially, but there are huge issues to be addressed. The best way to do it is by starting to educate our people at a young age, when children go to school. That would enable the change of culture that only happens over a generation.
I welcome the general principles of the Bill. There are a couple of issues which I have addressed. I hope the Minister will take some of my concerns on board, but in general I thank him for his engagement and support the Bill.