Report on Consultation into Liquor Licensing Laws Published

18 December 2013

Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland has published the outcome report on the consultation on the reform of liquor licensing legislation.

The consultation, which ended in November 2012, attracted over 2,500 responses from a wide range of stakeholders – including the alcohol industry, health bodies and the general public - on a wide range of proposed changes to the law regulating the sale and supply of alcohol in Northern Ireland. The issues consulted on represented a balanced package of reforms which include, on the one hand, measures aimed at tackling practices which could contribute to alcohol misuse and on the other, support the hospitality and tourism sectors.

Speaking of the consultation, Minister McCausland said: “I welcome the high level of interest this consultation has generated and acknowledge the importance of ensuring that licensing laws strike the right balance between tackling problems associated with alcohol misuse and personal choice.

“I am keen to ensure that licensing laws assist in supporting the tourism and night time economies but in a way where alcohol may be consumed as part of, but not the focus of, socialising. The challenge is finding the right balance.”

While still considering the detail of the specific proposals, Minister McCausland went on to say: “Following discussions with a number of the supermarkets I am not fully convinced that the desired benefits of introducing further restrictions would be gained, or outweigh any associated costs. However I am convinced that advertising of alcohol in supermarkets helps to erode the distinction between alcohol and other products and influences not only the choices of existing drinkers but also the choices of non-drinkers, especially young people.

“A large number of those who responded to the consultation suggested that opening hours for public houses should be brought into line with the rest of the UK and other European jurisdictions.

“Having considered experiences in other jurisdictions, I am not convinced it is sensible to go down this road. Restrictions on the sale and supply of alcohol are necessary in the battle against alcohol misuse and its impact on health, crime and anti-social behaviour. I acknowledge however that a modest increase in opening hours may be something worth considering due to the benefits that may be derived to the economy and to the tourism and hospitality sectors.

“I am currently giving careful consideration to all of these issues and I hope to make an announcement on how I intend to proceed in the near future.”

Click here to access the report. A hard copy may be requested from the Social Policy Unit (