Industry Calls Time On Irresponsible Drinks Promotions

23 May 2012

A new code of practice aimed at bringing an end to irresponsible drinks promotions which encourage the excessive consumption of alcohol, will be launched today. The code is backed by all sectors of the drinks industry and also has the support of Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland.

The Joint Industry Code for the Responsible Promotion and Retail of Alcohol in Northern Ireland (2012) applies to all suppliers and retailers of alcohol in Northern Ireland.  It is hoped that compliance with the code - which is a self-regulatory measure introduced by the industry and outlines the basic standards expected of those involved in the production, promotion, retail and service of alcohol in Northern Ireland - will eventually become a condition of the granting or renewal of both liquor and entertainment licenses across Northern Ireland.

The code, which also aims to address the current attitude and culture in Northern Ireland in terms of alcohol misuse and abuse, has been developed with the support of the Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland.

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland said:

"I have been concerned for some time about the way in which alcohol is promoted and marketed, in particular promotions involving very cheap alcohol and its availability to young people. I have been encouraged by the attitude of some of the bodies representing the drinks industry, who have been working to develop this Joint Industry Code.

“I very much welcome the opportunity to work with the drinks industry to end irresponsible drinks promotions which encourage excessive consumption of alcohol.”

Overseeing the implementation and enforcement of the code will be an independent complaints panel chaired by former Assistant Chief Constable Duncan McCausland and a number of independent professionals with extensive knowledge and experience in the alcohol, health, education and enforcement sectors. The body will be responsible for the enforcement of the code through handling complaints and carrying out investigations into any licensee deemed to be in breach of the terms of the agreement.  The panel will make its findings publically available and a statement will be issued to the press if it finds against a licensee. 

Chair of the independent complaints panel, Duncan McCausland said:

“For some time we have been aware and shocked by the scenes of young people drinking to excess in towns and cities across Northern Ireland.  The industry recognises that the time has come for action to be taken and they are now leading the way in addressing the issue head on through the new code on drinks promotions.  The success of the new code lies in education and enforcement and the role of the independent complaints body will be vital in this.  We want to make it clear that the code is not an empty gesture and with the support of the Minister, local councils and police, any breach will have serious implications for licensees and the future of their business.” 

The code has been welcomed by the representative bodies of the drinks industries, with both voicing their commitment to ensuring that licensees are fully aware of the new code and the serious implications of breaching the agreement. 

Gavin Partington, interim chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) said:

“The WSTA supports the principle of a voluntary approach when it comes to the responsible retail of alcohol. Supermarkets have already been leading the way with voluntary measures such as Challenge 25 and Community Alcohol Partnerships, which have proven to be effective. These and other best practice policies included in this code set out a good basic standard for all those involved in the alcohol industry to work towards.”

Colin Neill, chief executive of the representative body Pubs of Ulster said:

“As the representative of a responsible industry, Pubs of Ulster will to do all it can to ensure the industry promotes best practice.  We have been working very closely with the Minister for Social Development and The Joint Industry Working Group charged with developing the code, to move forward on the issue in order to bring an end to irresponsible practices across the industry.  Pubs of Ulster has already conducted a number of workshops across Northern Ireland to brief the industry on the code and the implications of any breach.  As the representative body of the on-trade, we will be reiterating our zero tolerance approach to irresponsible practices and driving home the message that their licence could be in jeopardy if they engage in any form of irresponsible promotion.”

A copy of The Joint Industry Code for the Responsible Promotion and Retail of Alcohol in Northern Ireland can be found at