Belfast Telegraph

Plans for curbing cut-price drink ‘do not go far enough’

Northern Ireland’s Assembly has moved a step closer to placing a minimum price on alcohol.

Social Development Minister Alex Attwood and Health Minister Michael McGimpsey have announced they will be launching a joint consultation on the minimum cost of drink. They claim this will help fight alcohol abuse, underage drinking and anti-social behaviour.

Northern Ireland’s plan comes after the announcement of an initiative to ban retailers and bars from selling alcohol for less than the tax paid on them in England and Wales yesterday.

Under those plans a can of weak larger could not be sold for less than 38p, there would be a minimum charge of £2.03 on a 750ml bottle of wine and £10.71 for a litre of vodka.

However, Pubs of Ulster has criticised these plans, saying they do not go far enough, and has urged the Assembly to take the lead when its comes up with its own proposals.

Mr McGimpsey said that Northern Ireland had an increasingly unhealthy relationship with alcohol and said the problem needed to be urgently addressed.

He added: “I am particularly concerned about the affordability of alcohol, especially for our young people who are more vulnerable than adults to the issues caused by excessive drinking.

“I have also met with representatives from the drinks industry on a number of occasions to |discuss a range of issues about the harm caused by the misuse of alcohol.”

Mr Attwood said he had instructed officials to prepare a paper for public consultation to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol in Northern Ireland.

“I hope the paper will be launched in a few weeks,” he said.

Pubs of Ulster said the availability of cheap alcohol has been an ongoing issue in Northern Ireland which was severely affecting trade and creating wider social problems.

Colin Neill, chief executive of Pubs of Ulster, said: “Whilst the plans are a step in the right direction in addressing these issues, a closer look at the proposals reveal that the measures do not go far enough.”

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