Consultation on minimum price of alcohol in NI launched

  • Post category:Newsletter

Alcohol sold in Northern Ireland could be subject to a minimum price following a consultation plan announced recently by the North’s Social Development and Health Ministers.

Social Development Minister Alex Attwood   and Health Minister Michael McGimpsey have launched a 16-week consultation to seek views on the introduction of a minimum price per unit of alcohol to “tackle the problems associated with the availability of cheap alcohol”. Alcohol abuse costs Northern Ireland as much as  £900 million per year, the ministers said.

The consultation also seeks views on possible alternatives to minimum pricing, including below-cost selling, VAT and duty increases and the introduction of a social responsibility levy.

NI Health Minister Michael McGimpsey, Dr Philip McGarry, Chair of Royal College of Psychiatrists and NI Social Development Minister Alex Attwood
NI Health Minister Michael McGimpsey, Dr Philip McGarry, Chair of Royal College of Psychiatrists and NI Social Development Minister Alex Attwood launch the consultation document on minimum pricing

“Given the link between consumption and harm and the evidence that affordability is one of the drivers of increased consumption, we consider that addressing price is an essential component of any long-term strategic approach to tackling alcohol harm,” Mr Attwood and Mr McGimpsey said when launching the consultation.

“We are convinced that setting a minimum price for alcohol will help tackle problems associated with the availability of cheap alcohol and will lead to a more balanced relationship with alcohol,” they added.

The consultation sets out a minimum price for a unit of alcohol of between 40 and 70 pence.

If adopted, the minimum price for a bottle of wine would be between  £4 (€4.65) and  £7 (€8.15), while a six-pack of beer would cost between  £4.40 if 40p per unit was adopted, or  £7.70 if it was 70p per unit. The minimum price will be determined after the period of consultation.

Reasons why people are drinking too much

The Ministers, in launching the consultation, listed the reasons why people are drinking too much:

  • Increased affordability
  • Increased accessibility
  • Change in drinking culture
  • Alcohol marketing and promotional strategies which helps portray alcohol as just another ordinary product, potentially desensitising consumers to the potential for harm

They said that any minimum prices should be set independently of those who profit from the production or sale of alcohol, such as those involved in the manufacture, retail, supply or distribution of alcohol products or any other connected activity.

Alcohol Action Ireland Director Fiona Ryan welcomed the move and said there is also popular support for minimum pricing in the Republic.

In 2010, Alcohol Action Ireland commissioned its Have We Bottled It? survey which found that a vast majority of people in Ireland (85%) believe that the current level of alcohol consumption in the country is a problem. It also found that:

  • Two out of three people believe there should be a minimum price on alcohol, a floor price below which alcohol cannot be sold
  • 69% said the government is not doing enough to address the country’s alcohol problem
  • One in four said the drop in the price of alcohol in supermarkets has influenced them to buy more alcohol

The Northern Ireland consultation runs for 16 weeks until June 26 2011 and seeks views and comments from all interested individuals and organisations to ensure that any final decisions made are well-informed, fair and effective.

To view the NI Minimum Unit Pricing of Alcohol Consultation Document, click here.


Did you know? Two out of three Irish adults say they would support minimum pricing.

Read more: Alcohol in Ireland: Tackling the Financial Hangover. Pre Budget Submission 2011 and the case for minimum pricing