Churches criticise Budget alcohol announcement

Three major British Churches have criticised government plans toscrap the alcohol duty escalator as announced in the Chancellor'sBudget speech today. 

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, Methodist Church and UnitedReformed Church say that George Osborne's announcement is'irresponsible', signalling good news for the drinks industry,while the taxpayer is left to bear the social and financial costsof problem drinking. 

The full statement follows: 

"Once again, George Osborne has presented a budget with goodnews for the drinks industry, but little reassurance that theGovernment cares about the harm caused by alcohol misuse. In 2013,as well as abandoning its commitment to the medically-backed policyof minimum unit pricing for alcohol, the Government abolished thealcohol duty escalator on beer. The escalator required duty onalcoholic drinks to rise at 2 percent above inflation from 2008 to2015. For decades, successive Governments have kept duty on alcoholat historically low levels, particularly for wine and spirits; itwould be even lower without the escalator. 

"As alcoholic drinks have become more affordable - an estimated61% more affordable since 1980 - the harm caused by alcohol misusehas increased, and already costs the UK £21bn per year. The dutyescalator on alcoholic drinks other than beer is the only survivingmeasure against dangerously cheap and strong ciders and spirits.Abolishing it is irresponsible and sends a signal that theGovernment supports business profits while passing the social andfinancial costs of problem drinking on to the taxpayer.  

"Research shows that introducing a minimum unit price on alcoholwould have a significant impact on problem drinking. Doctors,healthcare professionals and charities have long expressed theirsupport for such a measure and we would strongly urge Mr Osborneand his colleagues to look again at this option. "