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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 170 & 171 - Alcohol pricing [21719/16, 21720/16].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answers 170 & 171 - Alcohol pricing [21719/16, 21720/16]. (14 Jul 2016)


170. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health if he has considered introducing a ban on below invoice cost selling on alcohol products, where alcohol products would not be permitted to be sold at less than the invoice cost price inclusive of value-added tax and excise duty, as a measure to support minimum unit pricing in tackling discounting of alcohol; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21719/16]


171. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the contingency plans in place to curtail the retail of cheap alcohol products at discounted prices should he be unable to immediately implement minimum unit pricing upon enactment of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21720/16]


Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy): I propose to take Questions Nos. 170 and 171 together.


The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill remains a priority for this Government. The Bill is part of a suite of measures agreed on foot of the recommendations in the Steering Group Report on a National Substance Misuse Strategy. The Government approved the publication of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill and the introduction of the Bill in the Houses of the Oireachtas on the 8 December 2015. The Bill completed Second Stage in the Seanad on the 17 December 2015. The Bill has been restored to the Seanad Order Paper and it is expected that it will commence Committee Stage early in the next term.


The European Court of Justice ruled on 23 December 2015 on proposals by the Scottish Government to introduce Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP). The Court judgment is broadly in line with the Advocate General’s opinion in October last year when it states that the legislation may be justified on the grounds of the protection of health if it is proportionate to the objective pursued, and cannot be achieved by other measures such as taxation.


My Department and the Office of the Attorney General are considering the implications of the judgement. A strong and convincing case can be made in favour of MUP over other measures. I believe that MUP is a proportionate measure and the only measure that would effectively target the widespread access to alcohol that is very cheap relative to its strength. This was backed up by the research conducted by Sheffield University which showed that MUP changes behaviour in those most at risk. On the other hand, the study found that a ban on below-cost selling (implemented as a ban on selling alcohol for below the cost of duty and Value Added Tax) would have a negligible impact on alcohol consumption or related harms.


The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill also provides for the making of regulations to prohibit or restrict a person from engaging in certain promotion practices.

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