Irish Times – NI may set minimum alcohol price

Alcohol sold in Northern Ireland would be subject to a minimum price under a new legislative plan to be announced today by the North’s Social Development and Health Ministers.

Under the proposals, 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 and  £7.70.

The SDLP Minister for Social Development Alex Attwood and Ulster Unionist Minister for Health Michael McGimpsey believe that if their proposals are adopted Northern Ireland will be the first state in “western” society to implement a minimum price drink policy.
The Ministers, in launching a 16-week consultation on the plan, said alcohol abuse costs Northern Ireland as much as  £900 million per year.

Northern psychiatrists said the move could reduce suicide and self-harm.

Mr Attwood and Mr McGimpsey said their “minimum pricing is part of a government drive to reduce irresponsible drinking, reduce binge drinking, reduce anti-social behaviour and in turn reduce a significant drain on the health service”.

The Ministers propose that the minimum price for a unit of alcohol, be it in off-licences, pubs or registered clubs, should be between 40p and 70p, with the minimum price determined after the period of consultation.

Alcohol tends to cost less in Northern Ireland than in the Republic. Mr Attwood and Mr McGimpsey said that given that there are about 11 units of alcohol in a six-pack of beer, that would mean the minimum price of a six-pack would be  £4.40 if the 40p per unit was adopted and  £7.70 if the 70p figure was adopted. For wine, with 10 units of alcohol, the minimum price would be between  £4 and  £7.

Scotland had a similar consultation on a 45p per unit minimum price but was unsuccessful in bringing it forward as legislation.

Source: The Irish Times – 07.03.11
Journalist: Gerry Moriarty, Northern Editor