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 Wednesday, 17 April, 2002, 18:17 GMT 19:17 UK
Alcopops hit as real ale boosted
Alcopops
Alcopops previously attracted the same duty as wine
Anti-alcohol campaigners will be celebrating a Budget decision to class so-called alcopops in the same tax bracket as spirits - which could raise their cost.

On the flipside, football fans will be happy to hear the Chancellor's news that duty on a pint of some beers will be cut - meaning 14p off per pint in time for the World Cup.

Alcopop companies have long been charged with deliberately targeting under-age drinkers, and in 1996 the industry established its own code of practice in an effort to combat alcohol misuse and satisfy critics.

The bottled alcoholic drinks are often brightly coloured, carrying fashionable labels and taste strongly of fruit juices rather than alcohol.

In his Budget speech on Wednesday, Gordon Brown announced the "premium package coolers" would no longer taxed like wine but would now be classed at the higher, spirits rate.

This could mean manufacturers may be forced to pass on the cost to customers, leading to a price rise.

It will take effect from 28 April and will only include drinks that contain spirits, not wine, such as Bacardi Breezer.

But the news has been given a muted response by the Portman Group, whose purpose is to help prevent misuse of alcohol and promote sensible drinking.

Pint of beer
Cut in beer duty for small brewers was 'long time coming'

A spokesman for the group, which is funded by the drinks industry, said drinks such as beers, ciders and lagers remained more popular with underage drinkers.

He added: "Whilst the Chancellor may well be right to go for fiscal fairness, the best way to tackle alcohol misuse is to encourage responsible consumption, whatever the type of drink, rather than expecting a tax hike to do the trick."

Meanwhile drinkers at village pubs will benefit from the chancellor's sixth Budget with a cut of 14p off the price of a pint.

Mr Brown announced that duty paid on beer by small brewers will be cut by 50%.

"To encourage one group of small businesses: the nation's smaller brewers - often village pubs, some two centuries old - I have decided that the duty paid on their own beer will be halved," he said.

Small brewers make less than five million pints a year.

Long time waiting

The measure to cut duty on beer produced by small brewers has been expected for more than a year.

Hopes of a cut were first raised in the 2001 Budget when Mr Brown said he was "minded" to cut duty for small brewers.

I have decided that the duty paid on their own beer will be halved

Gordon Brown

On Wednesday, Mr Brown joked that the cut in duty would be implemented in time for the World Cup this summer.

"This will also be available in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland," he added to raucous laughter in the House of Commons.

Small beer

According to the Society of Independent Brewers, 85% of beer drunk in the UK is brewed by four companies - Scottish and Newcastle, Carlsberg Tetley, Interbrew and Guinness.

After the middle-sized companies, the 400 or so small breweries, or micro-breweries, account for just 2% of the market.

Stuart Neame, vice chairman of Shepherd Neame and the Independent Family Brewers of Britain, said the duty cut would only affect one pint in every 100 drunk.

"It's a fig leaf - so tiny that it simply attracts attention to the problem rather than doing anything to solve it".

He said UK beer duty was still six times higher than in France.

"It won't really help the micro-brewers who will be expected to pass on any duty changes to their customers".


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