Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children

General Scheme of Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015: Discussion (Resumed)

9:30 am

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

I ask for a wee bit of leniency from the Chairman. The Minister makes the point that minimum unit pricing is aimed at those who drink in a harmful and hazardous manner. I do not believe that will necessarily be the result. My assessment is that it will mostly affect those on lower income levels. If one looks at the current cost versus the suggested minimum unit pricing which will result from this legislation, one can see that it most certainly targets drink products which are used mostly by people on low to medium incomes. Maybe some of those are people who depend on social protection, but I do not believe that the issue of alcohol misuse, and all the terrible negatives that come from it, are confined to one social class. I fear we are not addressing this in the most holistic way. I will be addressing the issue through regulation of below-cost selling, which was rejected by the Minister. I do believe it has to be based on the invoice price, and I believe it is absolutely a sustainable solution that should be part of the overall approach. I have had negative reactions to my arguments for considering increased excise duties on alcohol, and I know it is not popular. We need to ring-fence money to address the serious social problems in our communities - to educate people and provide supports for those who are wrestling with serious alcohol abuse and those who are the victims of family members' abuse of alcohol - irrespective of where we are from or where we live. It is right across the board. Although I am mindful of what the reaction would be, I make no apology for suggesting increases in excise duties. It is not for the sole purpose of making alcohol more expensive, but to utilise the additional revenue in the most focused way. I believe this is essential, and it needs to be confirmed in this legislation.


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