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Rishi Sunak heckled at beer festival as alcohol duty changes come into force | Politics News

The prime minister has been heckled as he toured a London beer festival to mark a change in alcohol duty that comes into effect today.

Rishi Sunak was pouring a pint of Black Dub stout at the stall of the Wensleydale brewery, which operates from his north Yorkshire constituency, when a person interrupted to say: “Prime minister – oh the irony that you’re raising alcohol duty on the day that you’re pulling a pint.”

Another man then shouted at Mr Sunak – who famously enjoys fizzy drinks: “Prime minister, it’s not Coca Cola.”

The prime minister’s visit comes on the same day that a new system comes into force that will see all alcohol taxed based on its strength, rather than the previous categories of wine, beer, spirits and ciders.

The Treasury has said that more than 38,000 UK pubs will benefit from the move, which will see the duty on draught pints across the UK cut by 11p.

However, it means taxes will rise for some types of drink, including wine and gin.

The increase will see duty rise by 44p on a bottle of wine – a measure that was announced a few months ago in the budget.

When combined with VAT, the real increase per bottle will be 53p, the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) said.

The British Beer and Pub Association said brewers will in fact pay 10.1% more tax on bottles and cans of beer from Tuesday, which the Scotch Whisky Association also described as a “hammer blow for distillers and consumers”.

“Pubs and other on-trade businesses are about far more than beer and cider,” he said.

Rudi Keyser, one of the men who criticised Mr Sunak, hit out at what he called the prime minister’s “audacity” for visiting a London beer festival on the day of an alcohol duty increase.

Mr Keyser, who runs a pub in Wimbledon, told the PA news agency: “The amount of breweries that have shut down in the last year has been phenomenal.

“Plus, today they are raising alcohol duty across the board significantly.

“And I run a pub as part of a big national chain and we’ve been bulk buying in the last two weeks to avoid the alcohol duty increase.

“And he has the audacity to come and pull a pint for PR.”

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Mr Sunak welcomed the new system as beneficial to “thousands of businesses across the country”.

“The centre piece of those reforms is backing British pubs,” he said.

“Now that we’ve left the EU, we can ensure the tax you pay on beer and draft at pubs is lower, less than the tax you pay for beer at the supermarkets.

“But we’re also simplifying the system so that the lower the alcohol in a drink, the less tax you pay and that means price cuts on a range of popular drinks – whether that’s fruit ciders, fruit cocktails in a can, Baileys or sparkling wine like prosecco.

“We’re also growing the economy by cutting taxes for small producers so that they can expand and employ more people.”

Asked whether he acknowledged that there would be a 10.1% rise in alcohol duty across the board, the prime minister said: “lf you look at it over the last few years we’ve typically either frozen or cut spirits and other duties and scotch duty, for example, is at the moment is lowest it’s been in real terms for something like a hundred years.

“We’re moving to a system which is just inherently more sensible: that the lower the strength of alcohol in a drink, the less tax you pay.

“I think most people will agree with that common sense principle.”

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