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Scrapping alcohol duty rise would be 'madness'

Abandoning annual tax increases on alcohol would be "madness", leading medical experts have warned.

The Alcohol Health ­Alliance, which includes the Royal College of Physicians, British Medical Association and Alcohol Concern has said such a move would bring the NHS "to its knees" and cause "mayhem" on UK streets.

The alliance said that if ­ministers scrapped the duty rise in the 2014 Budget it would put "even more pressure on public services and frontline workers", the Alcohol Health Alliance said.

It has called on Chancellor George Osborne to maintain the alcohol duty escalator.

In a letter to Mr Osborne, the group argued the cost of alcohol harm in the UK is estimated to exceed £21 billion a year - which is more than double the total revenues collected from alcohol duties.

The letter says the alcohol duty escalator - which rises by inflation plus 2% each year - is beneficial to economy, society and public health.

The escalator was scrapped for beer in the Chancellor's last Budget, but it is still in place for wine and spirits.

Katherine Brown, director of the Institute of Alcohol Studies, said: "It would be madness if the alcohol industry lobby managed to convince the Chancellor to make cheap drink even cheaper at a time when strong white cider can be sold for 6p per unit.

"Scrapping the duty ­escalator would be going against yet another Government commitment to tackle the cheap alcohol that is causing mayhem on our streets and bringing our health service to its knees."

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said it was right for the escalator to be abolished.

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Food and drink

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