Health Minister to consult on alcohol minimum pricing

A public consultation will be held on the introduction of minimum pricing for alcohol in NI. Credit: PA

Health Minister Robin Swann has committed to a public consultation on the introduction of minimum pricing for alcohol in Northern Ireland.

Such a move would mean the setting of a minimum price per unit (8mg or 10ml) of alcohol, ensuring that a drink could not be sold for a price lower than the number of units multiplied by the MUP.

A review of the current Alcohol and Drugs Strategy in 2019 indicated that alcohol-related deaths continue to rise.

Hospital admissions linked to drinking increased from 9,573 in 2008/09 to 11,636 in 2016/17.

Mr Swann has said he is committed to holding a full public consultation on the issue within a year.

Speaking about the impact of alcohol misuse, he said: “We need to consider fully every option available to us to reduce this blight on our society.

“The impact alcohol has on our health service is clear and we must try to address the issue.”

The Scottish Government introduced minimum unit pricing on alcohol in 2018 – a move which Mr Swann said he has been closely following and has noted with interest the “early positive evaluation reports”.

He added: “My department has been working in conjunction with key stakeholders on developing a new substance use strategy and this will be issued for public consultation later this year.”

Hospitality Ulster Chief Executive Colin Neill has welcomed the announcement.

“This is a measure that Hospitality Ulster has lobbied on for some time and it is great to see that the minister and the department are taking the necessary steps to consult within the next year,” he said.

“Clearly there is an issue of the misuse of alcohol which needs to be addressed. Minimum unit pricing is about supporting the responsible consumption of alcohol and we are fully behind that.”

Mr Neill added: “We are now seeing the right steps being taken by our elected representatives in updating our liquor licensing legislation and they must be commended for that.”