03 December 2014

Following the announcement of plans to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol by the Health Minister, Colin Neill Chief Executive of Pubs of Ulster said:

“Pubs of Ulster welcome the Health Minister’s plans to introduce minimum unit pricing in Northern Ireland today. For too long we have seen the damage caused by the proliferation of cheap drink in society and it is time that pricing was tackled in a serious way.

“Here in Northern Ireland, we have been faced with various alcohol issues and the availability of incredibly cheap alcohol, namely by the large supermarkets, has had a serious impact on issues such as health and antisocial behaviour. It has now become acceptable for large retailers to sell alcohol at a loss and in some cases offer customers alcohol which is cheaper than bottled water.

“Pubs of Ulster have been calling for the introduction of minimum pricing in Northern Ireland for a number of years and have been working closely with the Departments of Social Development and Health to bring this about. We are pleased that the Health Minister has given his backing to this comprehensive study which demonstrates that there is much merit in introducing a minimum unit price.

“It is important to say however that minimum pricing will not be the panacea for harmful drinking practices, nor will it drive more people back to the pub. Where we will see some difference however, is the move away from trying to tackle our alcohol problems simply through higher taxation and regulatory obligations. These measures have never proven to be really effective.

“The change in unit pricing however is aimed specifically at stopping drink being sold below cost price and does have tangible effects. According to the report by the University of Sheffield, a ten per cent increase in the minimum unit price in Canada has led to an 8.4% reduction in consumption rates and a 32% reduction in wholly alcohol attributable deaths in British Columbia. Those statistics are very telling.

“For now, Pubs of Ulster will continue to work closely with Health Minister Jim Wells and Social Development Minister Mervyn Storey to ensure that minimum pricing is introduced in Northern Ireland in the near future and by doing so, help tackle the serious issue of alcohol misuse and abuse. “Alcohol is a restricted product for a reason and it is imperative that we all take measures to ensure it is promoted and sold responsibly. The pub industry will continue to work with government to ensure that alcohol is sold responsibly and at a realistic price.”