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400 businesses demand alcohol duty freeze

Published:  06 November, 2023

Representatives of more than 400 businesses have written to the chancellor demanding an alcohol duty freeze in the Autumn Statement.

The call comes amidst fears of a further tax hike following a 10% duty increase in August – found by ONS to have caused the largest contribution to UK inflation from alcohol on record.

In an open letter, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), UK Spirits Alliance (UKSA), English Whisky Guild and Wine & Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) are among those to have warned the chancellor that a further increase in alcohol tax will irrevocably harm British businesses. 

The organisations have also warned a further tax hike will stoke inflation, which chancellor Jeremy Hunt and prime minister Rishi Sunak pledged to halve by the end of the year.

Miles Beale, CEO of the Wine & Spirits Trade Association, said: “After the largest tax rise in almost 50 years on alcoholic drinks in August, the chancellor should rule out any further rises in this Parliament. Any further increase would undermine the government’s own priority of bringing inflation under control. 

“The damage done by August’s hikes is clear: they have stoked inflation, pushed up prices for cash-strapped consumers and damaged British businesses all across the hard-hit alcoholic drinks and hospitality sector, including distillers. A second alcohol duty rise would be self-defeating and could prove the final nail in the coffin for some British drinks businesses.”

Mark Kent, CEO of the Scotch Whisky Association, added: “Raising alcohol duty in August was a mistake the chancellor shouldn’t repeat in November. Distillers fear a further tax increase, the impact of which won’t just be felt by drinks producers but by the businesses they support and ultimately by consumers. Mr Hunt has promised to lower inflation and to help deliver on that promise he needs to rule out any further increase to alcohol duty.”

Prior to 1 August, the government had frozen alcohol duty on successive occasions, a move which was welcomed by the majority of the drinks trade.