Budget set to increase duty on spirits

The first increase in the excise duty on spirits since 1997 is expected to be announced in next week's Budget as part of the Government's attempts to combat binge drinking.

Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, is considering a plan to lift the freeze on spirits which has been in place since Labour came to power. Although taxes on beer and wine have risen in line with inflation since 1997, spirits have been exempt from increase to protect the competitiveness of the Scotch whisky industry.

Mr Darling has indicated that he will not impose swingeing increases, saying he does not want to "punish everybody for the sins of a minority". But he believes price rises can play a part in a co-ordinated strategy to tackle alcohol abuse.

Analysts have calculated that a 10 per cent rise in alcohol duties would result in a 10 per cent fall in consumption and that for spirits the drop could be as high as 13 per cent. They say a price hike would deter young people in particular.

Health experts are worried that many girls and young women are drinking large amounts of vodka with different mixers. Treasury officials believe it would not be possible to single out one drink for higher duty and so an overall rise for all spirits is under consideration.

The level of duty is typically 33p on a pint of beer, £1.33 on a bottle of wine and £5.48 on a bottle of whisky – which drinks companies say accounts for more than 70 per cent of the total price to the consumer.

Each percentage point increase in next Wednesday's Budget would raise £40m for the Treasury from beer, £25m from wine and £5m from spirits. A rise of 1 per cent in the duty on spirits would add 5p to the price. A rise of 10 per cent, which has been demanded by the Health Alcohol Alliance of doctors and charities, would add 54p to a bottle of whisky.

The Department of Health, which has commissioned a study on the relationship between the price, promotion and harmful effects of alcohol, is understood to be pressing the Treasury to raise duties. Alcohol-related hospital admissions cost the National Health Service £1.5bn a year.

The British Medical Association has called for rises to be proportionate to the amount of alcohol in the product. It cited studies showing that higher duty would reduce alcohol-related violence and crime as well as "providing the necessary funding to meet the social and economic costs of these harms".

Supporters of higher alcohol duties argue that price hikes on cigarettes for health reasons helped to deter smoking. But sceptics doubt that young people would change their lifestyle.

The drinks industry fears it will be targeted in the wake of criticism of the Government's review of the 24-hour licensing laws this week, which did not provide evidence for the U-turn on policy demanded by critics.

The Wine and Spirits Trade Association appealed yesterday to the Chancellor to think carefully before raising alcohol duties and called for a freeze. It said that a rise would not reduce problem drinking and could reduce Treasury revenues and stoke inflation. The Scotch Whisky Association said: "Calls for higher duties to tackle alcohol misuse are misplaced."

The Tories called for an increase in the duty on "problem drinks", including a rise of more than 50p on alcopops such as WKD and Smirnoff Ice; a 32p increase for a 500ml can of strong beer such as Carlsberg Special Brew and Tennent's Super and a doubling of duty on strong ciders such as Diamond White and White Lightning, adding £1.25 to a three-litre bottle.

They also proposed a cut in tax on low-strength beer and cider and no change on wines and spirits.

Labour sources said a tax rise on alcopops alone would be illegal under EU rules.

George Osborne, the shadow Chancellor, said: "Our package does not hit the vast majority of law-abiding, responsible drinkers. Binge drinkers should not be used as an excuse for yet more health taxes."

Don Shenker, director of policy at Alcohol Concern, said: "Strong cider, strong beer and alcopops are some of the most problematic alcohol drinks available in Britain. There's no doubt that measures of this kind will put a dent in teenagers' ability to buy and drink these products excessively."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Dominique Alderweireld, also known as Dodo de Saumure, is the owner of a string of brothels in Belgium
newsPhilip Sweeney gets the inside track on France's trial of the year
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Tom DeLonge, Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 pictured in 2011.
musicBassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker say Tom Delonge is 'disrespectful and ungrateful'
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'
tvBroadchurch series 2, episode 4, review - contains spoilers
Sport
cyclingDisgraced cycling star says people will soon forgive his actions
News
Britain's Prince Philip attends a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in London
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran will play three sell-out gigs at Wembley Stadium in July
music
News
i100
News
Lena Dunham posing for an official portrait at Sundance 2015
people
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Assistant Management Accountant - Part Qualified CIMA / ACCA

£30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: We are recruitment for an Assistan...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive - OTE £50,000

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of design...

Recruitment Genius: Logistics Analyst

£23000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be a part of ...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Manager - R&D - Paint

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This growing successful busines...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea