Unilateral alcohol pricing legislation raises concerns
New legislation clamping down on cheap alcohol sales in supermarkets is to be fast-tracked by the Government according to a report in the Irish Independent with the Cabinet expected to approve plans in the next fortnight.
1 July 2019 | 0
The Independent report also stated that Minimum Unit Pricing would be introduced within the next 12 months.
According to the report, “Health minister Simon Harris will bring a memorandum to the Cabinet before the summer recess which will set out plans to introduce bans on below-price selling of alcohol by the middle of next year.
“Under the new laws, a 75cl bottle of white wine costing €5.99 will increase by €1.11 while 70cl of Tesco vodka currently costing €12.99 will see an increase of €7.72, making it €20.71. A bottle of Tesco gin costing €15.99 will rise by €4.72, to €20.71, while a can of Dutch Gold beer costing €1.13 will increase by 45c.”
Minimum Unit Pricing was introduced in Scotland last year, the first country to introduce such legislation and alcohol sales there appear to have fallen to their lowest level since records began, prompting Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to remark that, “It does seem to be working, consumption is falling and we’ll press ahead with implementing our public health alcohol legislation.”
Ireland’s Public Health (Alcohol) Bill was passed last year by the Dail but many parts of it remain to be implemented.
The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland has stated that the drinks industry remains in favour of tackling the sale of cheap alcohol to reduce alcohol misuse.
But in response to the latest “fast-track” announcement however, it stated, “The Cabinet already made a decision that the introduction of Minimum Unit Pricing should only be done in conjunction with Northern Ireland which means the Cabinet would need to reverse this previous decision to now go ahead on its own.”
ABFI Director Patricia Callan commented, “The reason for the original Cabinet decision is that the introduction of MUP in the Republic of Ireland, ahead of Northern Ireland, will result in an even more dramatic price differential on alcohol products sold either side of the border and will lead to an unsustainable position for border businesses in particular. The Republic of Ireland already has the second-highest prices for alcohol in the EU, according to the latest eurostat report.
“As An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar TD recently commented in the Dáil, we will achieve nothing if all we are to do is encourage people to cross the Border to buy alcohol in Northern Ireland. That does nothing for their health and it damages retailers in counties south of the Border.
“The consequences of such a policy change must also be considered in the context of the ongoing uncertainty about Brexit,” she continued, “MUP combined with a ‘no-Deal Brexit’ is likely to lead to massive exchequer losses and to a significant rise in cross-border smuggling and illicit alcohol sales. The Government should wait for clarity on Brexit and the re-establishment of a functioning Northern Ireland Executive before proceeding with the implementation of MUP on the island of Ireland.
“In the interim a ban on below-cost selling should be introduced to tackle the sale of cheap alcohol in a quick and effective manner. This would ensure alcohol is not sold as a loss leader and would end the deep discounting that distorts the market.”