I propose to take Questions Nos. 407 and 408 together.
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, 2012. The package of measures to be implemented will include provision for minimum unit pricing, regulation of the marketing and advertising of alcohol, regulation of sports sponsorship, structural separation of alcohol from other products in mixed trading outlets and labelling of alcohol products.
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. Work on developing a framework for the necessary Department of Health legislation is continuing and it is hoped to publish a General Scheme of a Bill shortly.
My colleague, Frances Fitzgerald, Minister for Justice and Equality has responsibility for the Licensing Acts 1833 - 2011. A 3-step approach to provide for the structured separation of alcohol from other products in mixed trading outlets has been agreed between our Departments. This involves replacing the current Responsible Retailers of Alcohol in Ireland voluntary code of practice on the sale and display of alcohol in mixed trading premises with a statutory code under Section 17 of the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2011 and after 2 years both the Department of Health and the Department of Justice and Equality will review its effectiveness in achieving the policy objectives of Section 9 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008. I understand that Minister Fitzgerald hopes to be in a position to launch a consultation process of the draft statutory code of practice shortly.