Northern Ireland Scotland England Wales

Last updated:

Don't drop cost of alcohol, doctors urge chancellor

Doctors are pressing chancellor George Osborne not to drop the price of drink in this year’s budget.

alcohol labelling examplesA letter from the Alcohol Health Alliance urges Mr Osborne to maintain the ‘alcohol duty escalator’ — the policy under which the duty rate on all alcoholic drinks increases by 2 per cent above the rate of inflation each year.

The policy is due to remain in place for 2014/15 but could then be reviewed. 

Mr Osborne scrapped the duty escalator for beer last year and some sectors of the drinks industry have been urging him to ‘call time’ on the escalator for other alcohol products.

But the letter to Mr Osborne, signed by 24 members of the alliance, including BMA director of professional activities Vivienne Nathanson, urges him to stand firm and maintain the escalator. 

The cost of alcohol misuse

It argues that freezing duty rises on drink would unfairly increase the burden on the public purse from dealing with the consequences of alcohol misuse and put more pressure on public services and frontline workers.

Alcohol Health Alliance chair Professor Sir Ian Gilmore said: ‘To suggest scrapping the duty escalator at a time when current levels of alcohol tax revenue do not even meet half the cost of alcohol related harm to our society is deplorable.

‘The government needs to stand strong on this issue — the taxpayer is already paying too much to foot the bill of alcohol-related harm.’

Alcohol Concern figures put the cost of alcohol harm in the UK at more than £21bn each year — more than double the £10bn collected in alcohol duty.

Mr Osborne is due to present his budget to Parliament on March 19.

 Read the letter to chancellor George Osborne

 Read about the BMA's work on preventing the harm caused by alcohol

The story so far