Fiona Bruce MP has welcomed the fact that in this week’s budget statement the Chancellor has confirmed he has acted on requests by her and other MPs to consider the damage caused to young people’s lives through drinking cheap white cider, by announcing he will consult on increasing the tax on this product. Para 3.33 of the budget red book says “The Government will consult on introducing a new duty band for still cider just below 7.5%abv to target white ciders.”
Currently it is possible to buy a three-litre bottle of 7.5% ABV cider, containing the equivalent amount of alcohol as 22 shots of vodka, for just £3.50. As a result of these low prices, these drinks are a favourite among children and vulnerable groups.
He also announced a £100million fund set up to fund GP triage projects in A&E departments, to relieve pressure on them next winter. This is vital at a time when alcohol-related admissions put A&E departments under severe pressure.
Treasury Minister, Jane Ellison MP, told Fiona Bruce this week:
“I am well aware, not least from my previous role as Minister for Public Health, of the health and social harms associated with problem consumption of alcohol, including cheap high-strength ciders. I would like to reassure you that the Government is committed to reducing excessive alcohol consumption and tackling the related heath harms...it is certainly helpful to have seen the arguments and issues that have been raised. I can assure you that the views expressed will be carefully considered.”
Commenting on the announcements, Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton, who is Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm said:
“I welcome the government consulting on high-strength cider, a product currently receives the lowest duty per unit of any alcohol product, and the government clearly recognises the need to address the anomalies in the tax system which mean that these ciders can be taxed at such low rates yet cause high rates of harm.
“By taxing these drinks more strongly, the government would also encourage producers to lower the alcohol content in the drinks. I worked with colleagues from all parties on this issue and look forward to engaging with the consultation.
"The £100million fund set up to fund GP triage projects in A&E departments, to relieve pressure on them next winter is vitally important. Our All party parliamentary group released a report late last year that highlighted the resource and time burden that alcohol misuse has on emergency services. It found that over 70% of all attendances at A&E departments are alcohol related at weekends. The GP triage projects will play a vital role in helping alleviate some of the pressures that alcohol-related admissions cause."