Chancellor urged to stand up to brewers with Budget crackdown on cheap drink

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The Chancellor – named Beer Drinker of the Year last year for scrapping a planned 3p rise in beer duty – must resist industry pressure and “crack down” on cheap drink, a health expert has said.

George Osborne should use next week’s Budget to show he will not “succumb” to industry influence to ditch completely the duty escalator for all alcohol – a mechanism which ensures drink prices rise faster than inflation, according to Katherine Brown, director of the Institute of Alcohol Studies.

If Mr Osborne did give in to lobbying from the drinks industry, the cost to the Treasury would be £110m in 2014-15, she added.

“This sum could fund 2,587 alcohol nurses in emergency departments, 468,085 ambulance call-outs, or 723,684 days of inpatient detoxification services,” Ms Brown wrote in the British Medical Journal.

“For the Government to renege on yet another commitment to tackle the affordability of alcohol, and at the same time deprive the public purse of millions of pounds of tax revenue, would be a gross injustice to British society and to our public services, which are struggling to cope with the burden alcohol poses day in, day out,” she added.

“The Chancellor should maintain the alcohol duty escalator and stand by the Government’s commitment to crack down on cheap drink.”

Last year, Mr Osborne scrapped a planned 3p rise in beer duty and replaced it with a 1p cut in the price of a pint. This led to the industry-supported All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group handing him a trophy for Beer Drinker of the Year.

Accepting the award, Mr Osborne said it was a “symbol that Parliament cares about this industry”.