ECJ judgement on Minimum Price Alcohol policy doesn’t prevent Ireland from changing domestic law – Hayes
Dublin MEP, Brian Hayes has today (Sunday) said that he believes whatever opposition might come from the EU on minimum unit pricing of alcohol contained in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, that Ireland has the power to adopt such a policy irrespective of the opposition of the drinks industry or others. The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is due to commence committee stage in the Seanad in October.
“Earlier this year, the European Commission and eleven other member states expressed concerns that the legislation is a breach of single market rules. Whatever other member states do or whatever the industry ultimately does – I believe we have the power to implement this legislation under existing ECJ (European Court Justice) rulings.”
“We should not fear the threat of court action by the drinks industry who continually point to an alleged successful challenge to similar legislation in Scotland last year. In Scotland’s case the legislation was referred by the Scottish Courts to the European Court. The European Court ruled that it was a matter for national courts but stated Member States should increase excise on alcohol as the first option. But crucially the ECJ recognised the supremacy of the national courts in reaching a final decision.”
“This is a public health issue and article 34 of the Functioning of the EU Treaty allows member states to restrict access to the single market for that purpose. Ireland must be allowed to introduce legislation in the interest of the protection of public health. The social and economic impact of alcohol on society is enormous. New research found that in 2013, 3 people died each day as a result of drinking alcohol. Misuse of alcohol in Ireland cost €2.35 billion in 2013 alone. There is also approximately 900 cases of alcohol related cancer diagnosis each year. We need to take this issue serious and tackle it head on.”
“Minimum pricing will set a floor price for alcohol. It targets the products that are currently very cheap but have a high alcohol content. Pubs, restaurants and nightclubs would be unaffected by the legislation. It only applies to the off-trade. Minimum pricing has successfully been introduced in a number of provinces in Canada.”
“The legislation is not about preventing people from drinking. It’s about reducing our consumption and improving our health. It’s not a silver bullet solution, but an important part of the consumption fight. Ireland was a European leader in introducing the smoking ban. We can once again become a leader by introducing minimum unit pricing on alcohol.” concluded MEP Hayes.