Alcohol pricing plan to go before departments

New rules on minimum pricing for alcohol and guidelines for drink advertising for sports events will be signed off this week by the Department of Health before going to Cabinet.

The Government’s action plan on addressing alcohol misuse will be considered by other departments before it is expected to be decided upon by the end of the month.

Junior health minister Alex White, who has responsible for the alcohol strategy, will sign off on his plans for alcohol pricing this week, a detailed memo on which will be circulated to several other ministers.

His department said the memo would be signed off in the department this week and that the process of bringing guidelines on drink prices to Cabinet would then begin.

“We’ve had and finished the consultation with other bodies. The minister will sign off on it and it will go to other departments then,” said a spokesman for Mr White.

The guidelines are expected to include proposals on minimum pricing, alcohol sponsorship, and advertising.

The memo will include a decision on legislation on minimum pricing and will also address whether or not the drinks industry should pay “social responsibility levy”.

Ministers will consider Mr White’s advice on whether to phase out drinks industry sponsorship of sport and large public events, and if there should be a 9pm watershed on broadcasting alcohol advertising.

It is expected that the plans will go to ministers in justice, transport, sport, and finance.

A department source said the memo was a “comprehensive” document and that other departments and ministers would give their observations on the alcohol plan guidelines before the Cabinet makes a decision.

The Government has decided to undertake a major study of how much alcohol we consume, how often we go to the pub, and who we drink with, as it prepares to consider the alcohol misuse measures.

The drinking habits of 5,000 people will be surveyed in face-to-face interviews for the Health Research Board.

The action plan for minimum pricing levels is based on a government expert group which sat for three years before publishing its report a year ago.

The plan was initially supposed to go to the Cabinet last summer.

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