Rishi Sunak accused of putting ‘prosecco before parents’ as alcohol prices set to fall

·Political Correspondent - Yahoo News UK
·3 min read
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivering his Budget to the House of Commons in London. Picture date: Wednesday October 27, 2021.
Rishi Sunak delivers his budget to the House of Commons. (PA)

Rishi Sunak has been accused of putting "prosecco before parents" amid criticism of plans to cut the price on draught beer, cider and sparkling wine.

The chancellor revealed in his budget on Wednesday that the planned increase in duty on spirits such as Scotch whisky, wine, cider and beer will be cancelled from midnight.

He said the changes will see taxes increase on some higher strength drinks, such as some red wine and “white ciders”. However, consumers of some lower-strength products, such as rose, fruit ciders, liqueurs, and lower strength beers and wines, “will pay less”.

Watch: Budget 2021: Beer and prosecco duty cuts - new alcohol taxes explained

He said it would represent a tax cut worth £3bn.

While the changes were met with cheers by Conservative MPs in the House of Commons, they were greeted with derision by Labour MPs, with many suggesting the government's priorities are in the wrong place.

The shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, who stood in for party leader Sir Keir Starmer after he tested positive for COVID-19, said struggling families will believe Sunak is “living in a parallel universe” following his budget.

People enjoying a few drinks during the Euro 2020 semi final match between England and Denmark on the 7th of July 2021 at the outdoor screen at Folkestone Harbour Arm, in Folkestone, United Kingdom. (photo by Andrew Aitchison / In pictures via Getty Images)
The cost of some lower-strength products - such as rose, fruit ciders, liqueurs, and lower strength beers and wines - is set to decrease. (PA)

"Families struggling with a cost-of-living crisis, businesses hit by a supply chain crisis, those who rely on our schools and hospitals and our police – they won’t recognise the world the chancellor is describing.

“They will think he is living in a parallel universe.”

She added: “The chancellor in this budget has decided to cut taxes for banks.

“So at least the bankers on short-haul flights sipping champagne will be cheering this budget today.”

Watch: Key points from the Chancellor's Budget

She welcomed the increase in the minimum wage – which is set to rise to £9.50 in April – but said the government needed to go “further and faster” and should have moved to a rise of at least £10 an hour.

And she warned the reduction of the universal credit taper rate from 63p to 55p would mean people receiving the benefit “still face a higher marginal tax rate than the prime minister”.

Sunak also said that inflation is set to rise to 4% in the coming months amid a higher cost of living.

'Out of touch'

Reaction from the Labour benches was swift. “So the chancellor is investing more in prosecco than parents,” said Labour MP Stella Creasy.

Labour MP and chair of the international development committee, Sarah Champion, said: “Thank goodness we can all now afford to drown our sorrows in a pint, as our cost of living goes through the roof (the roof that many won’t be able to afford to keep).”

Adding: “How out of touch is this chancellor?”

Reeves also accused the chancellor of living in a “parallel universe” in the face of rising cost-of-living demands.

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Fellow Labour MP and former shadow chancellor John McDonnell lambasted Sunak and criticised him for failing to use the money to do more to help the most vulnerable.

“Spending a sizeable section of your budget speech on alcohol literally is the definition of “small beer” and “scraping the bottom of the barrel,” he said. 

“Doubt all those losing £20 a week universal credit and whose wages remain frozen or cut will be toasting Sunak.”

Criticism has also come from elsewhere on the opposition benches, including the Green Party.

“Is the only advantage from #Brexit that chancellor can find the chance for UK ships to fly the red ensign and cut tax on booze?” said Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.

“You couldn’t make it up.”

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