In an attempt to curb binge-drinking and reduce anti-social behaviour the proposed legislative proposals which have been launched by the Department for Social Development (DSD) and the Department for Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) for consultation could see a six-pack of beer cost a minimum of between £4.40 and £7.70 under the regulations based on the number of units of alcohol.
“I am though concerned about the level of alcohol misuse in Northern Ireland and in particular how heavily discounted alcohol prices contribute to the problem.
"I believe there is a strong weight of evidence for introducing minimum pricing as a further tool for tackling the harm of alcohol misuse in our society."
His colleague, Health Minister Michael McGimpsey, pointed out that in real terms alcohol was 62 per cent more affordable now than 30 years ago. He added that research had indicated a minimum price per unit of alcohol of 40p coupled with a ban on promotions could decrease consumption by 5.4 per cent.
Pubs of Ulster Chief Executive Colin Neill welcomed the launch of the joint consultation and hoped that this was the first step in the process of bringing about effective legislation on the issue in Northern Ireland.
“The availability of cheap alcohol has had a serious impact on health and anti-social behaviour and is an ongoing issue for Pubs of Ulster and indeed the wider community,” he stated, “As a result, Pubs of Ulster has been at the forefront of the fight for the introduction of minimum pricing in Northern Ireland.
“Northern Ireland now has the opportunity to introduce effective legislation ahead of the rest of the UK and Ireland. However, this legislation needs to go further than the recent proposals set out by the Home Office for England and Wales, where the proposed minimum price was based on duty plus VAT resulting in a price of 21p per unit for beer and 28p per unit of spirits. We hope that legislation in Northern Ireland will take into account expert advice and extensive evidence that suggests that the price should be much higher, at least 50p per unit.”
In addition to minimum pricing, the consultation also seeks views on the introduction of a social responsibility levy to which Colin Neill responded, “Pubs are the only licensed premises that already pay a substantial social levy due to the current commercial rating system which means that pub property rates are an average of 30 per cent higher compared to any other commercial property including other sectors of the licensed trade. We would like to see greater equality in the system, ensuring that the pub trade is not additionally penalised but instead that this levy is added to the supermarkets that now sell the majority of alcohol in the province.”