Roisín Shortall consults Attorney General over minimum pricing

The proposed below-cost selling ban presently being mooted by Roisín Shortall, Minister of State at the Department of Health with responsibility for Primary Care, will not have any detrimental effect on jobs, she has claimed.

And in a speech to a conference on Supporting Children Living with Parental Substance Misuse, she hinted that the Government may also increase taxation on alcohol in the forthcoming budget.??"I am very concerned about the level of alcohol use in Ireland. We top the leagues when it comes to binge-drinking, underage drinking and other dangerous behaviours based on alcohol. We need to reduce our consumption,” she told the conference organised by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs, Alcohol Action Ireland and the HSE, adding, “The central aim is to reduce the amount of alcohol we drink.” 

??Alcohol places a huge burden on the health service and it hugely impacts on our competitiveness in terms of days lost in work, she stated, adding that the National Substance Misuse Strategy would be published before the end of the year.??Pricing was a "key issue" as alcohol had become "incredibly cheap". In a recent example of this, she cited a supermarket selling two bottles of wine for just €5. ??She is now in consultation with the Attorney General to see if it’s legally possibly to introduce minimum pricing.

 ??"It’s a very complex matter, but " she stated, adding that research indicated that minimum pricing would not hit the drinks industry hard.??"I’m fairly satisfied that by clamping down on the cheap availability of alcohol through supermarkets it’s not actually going to have a significant impact on jobs,"  she stated.

The VFI has backed her up on the issue of introducing a minimum price for alcohol.

VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben said, “The VFI is strongly in favour of developing a mechanism to prevent the current practice of the irresponsible promotion and sale of alcohol in the supermarket sector”.

He pointed out that the Minister had stated that the introduction of a minimum price would not have a majorly negative impact on jobs but, in fact, a minimum price would have a hugely positive impact on keeping people in work.
“7,000 jobs were lost in the on-trade sector last year and at least 500 pubs are at risk of closing in the next 12 months with the subsequent loss of up to a further 4,000 jobs and possibly more which is eleven times as many jobs which will be tragically lost at Aviva Insurance.
“The availability of cheap drink in supermarkets is a major contributor to pubs  closing and the introduction of a minimum price that alcohol could be sold at would go a long way to keeping family-run pubs trading and saving thousands of jobs throughout Ireland.”

However he warned that any increase in excise levels would be counterproductive, stating, “Increasing excise will only punish the moderate drinker and will not tackle the main culprits which are the supermarkets.
“The big multiples can absorb tax increases on alcohol and will continue to sell alcoholic drinks cheaply as a loss-leader while pushing up the prices of other products, especially food, to compensate. In fact a major multiple in the UK recently thumbed it’s nose at the Government by reducing the price of alcohol on the very day excise increased.”

The VFI concluded that it is more than happy to assist in any way possible with developing a fair system and mechanism for the safe sale and promotion of alcohol.

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