Philip Hammond has bowed to industry pressure to freeze alcohol duties, except on some cheap high-strength drinks.
The chancellor announced the move today in his Budget statement, saying that the freeze was in recognition of the role that pubs play in British society as well as the squeeze on household budgets.
It comes after repeated calls from industry bodies such as the Wine and Spirits Trade Association (WSTA) and the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) for duties to be frozen in order to ease the tax burden on hospitality operators.
The ALMR was quick to welcome the move, saying that it provided a boost to the hospitality industry, which is a major employer.
Freeze is to all alcohol duty – not just beer – so a real boost across all hospitality, a sector generating 1 in 3 of all new jobs
— ALMR (@ALMRInfo) November 22, 2017
The WSTA said that it also showed the chancellor was in touch with what consumers want.
Chief executive Miles Beale said: “We are pleased that the Chancellor has found his festive spirit and listened to the call from the WSTA and its members and has frozen wine and spirit duty. He has shown the Government is in touch with what consumers want and is supporting an industry which is proving to be a real asset to British business."
But the freeze will not apply to some high-strength products, including 'white cider', which was namechecked in Hammond's speech.
"Excessive alcohol consumption by the most vulnerable people is all too often through cheap high street, low quality products, especially so-called 'white ciders'," he said. Acknowledging a campaign on the issue led by Fiona Bruce, the MP for Congleton, Hammond said that the government would legislate to increase duties on these products from 2019.
But duties on other ciders, wines, spirits and beer will be frozen, as Hammond praised "great British pubs".
According to the chancellor's calculations, this means the consumer will save 12p on a pint of beer and £1.15 on a bottle of whiskey in 2019.
"Merry Christmas Mr deputy speaker," Hammond concluded.