Budget 2014: Osborne aims to save the pub trade with tax cuts for beer and bingo

 

Deputy Political Editor

Duties on beer were cut by the Chancellor in an effort to protect jobs in the brewing industry and ease the pressure on struggling pubs.

George Osborne also had good news for another British institution as he halved the tax rates levied on bingo halls.

He repeated last year’s 1p cut in the duty on beer, froze the tax on cider, whisky and spirits and announced plans to scrap the “escalator” which has meant levies on alcohol automatically rising ahead of inflation.

The move on beer follows warnings that pubs were being driven out of business by cheap alcohol sold in supermarkets.

Read more: The Independent's Budget coverage in full

Mr Osborne said the freezing of cider duties was designed to support cider makers in the South West of England who had been hit hard by the recent storms and floods.

Duty on Scotch whisky, described by Mr Osborne as a “huge British success story”, is also being pegged, along with other spirits. Duties on wine will rise in line with inflation.

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association welcomed the scrapping of the alcohol duty escalator.

Its chief executive, Miles Beale, said: “The move will help pubs, bars, and restaurants up and down the country and boost jobs and investment in the great British drinks industry and in the hospitality sector more widely.”

Mr Osborne also bowed to a vociferous campaign for a reduction in the duty on bingo halls who had protested that they faced heavier taxes than other forms of gambling.

They blamed the higher rate for hall closures, with the loss of almost 2,000 jobs.

They had been pressing for the levy to be reduced from 20 per cent to 15 per cent. But the Chancellor went further than expected and cut it to 10 per cent, telling MPs that the number of halls had “plummeted by three-quarters over the last 30 years”.

The Bingo Association said the surprise announcement would enable clubs across the UK to invest in new premises, modernisation and jobs.

Mr Osborne increased the rate applied to fixed-odds betting terminals in betting shops – seen as a “harder” form of gambling – from 20 per cent to 25 per cent.

He also increased tobacco duty by two per cent above inflation, increasing the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes by about 28p.

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