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Home > Seanad Eireann debate - Order of business [alcohol pricing].

[Oireachtas] Seanad Eireann debate - Order of business [alcohol pricing]. (07 Oct 2014)

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Senator Catherine Noone: Yesterday the Government came under increasing pressure from various bodies to ban below-cost selling of alcohol, an issue I have raised on a number of occasions. It was indicated that this is costing the Exchequer approximately €21 million per annum through lost VAT and excise duty. That makes sense to me. It is as much a public health issue as it is an Exchequer issue, and it is clear that the main multinational supermarkets are benefiting from this to the detriment of smaller retailers as well as bars. 

Allied to that is the campaign by the vintners association to get the Government to consider reducing excise duty in pubs ahead of the budget. I believe that an end to below-cost selling of alcohol in supermarkets would in turn provide a boost to our pubs without reducing the excise duty. I would much rather see people drinking in the pubs, as happened here for years, in a controlled environment where the publican can have some concern for the welfare of those consuming alcohol on the premises. 

It is interesting to note that while the cost of consuming alcohol in pubs has risen by an astonishing 300% since 1990, the price of alcohol in off-licences halved. It seems reasonable to conclude, therefore, that any rise in alcohol consumption is likely to have taken place outside the pubs and is driven by cheap alcohol sold below cost by large multiples. 

This is also reflected by the sixfold increase in the number of off-licences in the past ten years, against a backdrop of 20% fewer pubs in the same period. It is time that the Government worked to change this and a ban on below-cost selling would be a boost to public health and the Exchequer. I would welcome a debate on the issue in the House at the earliest possible opportunity.

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