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Jeremy Hunt extends alcohol duty freeze until August

Planned hikes in alcohol duty have been put off until August, afterJeremy Hunt decided to extend the current freeze a further six months.

The chancellor was due to increase duty on beer, wine, cider and spirits by the annual increase in RPI on 1 February.

This would have meant an average increase of 7p for a pint of beer, 38p for a bottle of wine and £1.30 for a bottle of spirits.

Junior Treasury minister James Cartlidge today announced the six-month freeze in an attempt to “provide certainty and reassure pubs, distilleries, and breweries as they face a challenging period ahead”.

It comes as the Treasury today announced that the spring Budget will be on 15 March, with the chancellor set to reform how alcohol duty is calculated in the statement.

“The alcohol sector is vital to our country’s social fabric and supports thousands of jobs – we have listened to pubs, breweries and industry reps concerned about their future as they get ready for the new, simpler, alcohol tax system taking effect from August,” Cartlidge told MPs.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association said that this freeze “will allow £180million to be reinvested into our sector”.

“Investment in our sector now will pay dividends in villages, towns and cities across the country for generations to come,” she said.

“Pubs and brewers are a crucial thread in the social fabric of our society and contribute not only economically but socially, connecting people in communities up and down the country.”

The Night Time Industries Association welcomed the move, but said the government must “recognise the full extent of the problem, and consider further support in the coming months for many businesses to survive”.

“The alcohol duty freeze will give businesses some breathing space but will not repair the damage already done or solve the immediate challenges faced by the sector following three years of disruption,” they said.

Former chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng said in his catastrophic mini-Budget that he would freeze alcohol duty, however Hunt rowed back on this during his autumn fiscal statement.

The increase would have come after nearly three very challenging years for the hospitality industry thanks to Covid, inflation and the current economic downturn.

Many pubs and restaurants have also suffered from the effects of widespread strike action this month, with the hospitality sector expected to lose millions due to the drop in footfall.

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