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Excise Duties

Volume 205: debated on Tuesday 10 March 1992

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I turn now to excise duties. Last year I raised the duties on alcohol in line with inflation, and I propose to do the same this year. From 6 pm tonight, this will mean an increase in the tax on a typical pint of beer of just over 1p, just under 5p on a bottle of wine and 28p on a bottle of spirits. I also propose to raise the duty on unleaded petrol and on diesel in line with inflation.

On leaded petrol, I propose a rather larger increase, of 7½ per cent., taking the tax differential between leaded and unleaded petrol to over 5p a litre. That will continue our long-standing and successful policy of encouraging motorists to move away from leaded petrol, which now represents little more than half the market.

I propose to increase vehicle excise duty on cars, taxis and light vans by £10, and to freeze it again this year for lorries.

I propose to raise the duty on tobacco by about 10 per cent.—roughly the same real increase as last year. That will add 13p to the price of a packet of 20 cigarettes. The duties on other tobacco products will also rise by about 10 per cent., apart from that on pipe tobacco, which will rise only in line with inflation. Benjamin Franklin once remarked that nothing was certain except death and taxes, but for some people the latter may help to delay the former. As for the irreconcilables—among whom I count myself—I have one minor compensation: I propose to abolish from 1 January 1993 the duty charged on matches and mechanical lighters.

I also have a change to announce on betting duty, with consequences for the racing industry. I propose to cut the rate of betting duty by one quarter of 1 per cent., reducing the tax take by £15 million in 1992–93. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department will be announcing later today his determination of the horse race betting levy, and he will be making proposals to ensure that the greater part of that reduction will be channelled to the horse racing industry. That is an important part of the measure, and I shall review the cut in betting duty next year.

A proportion of the reduction, of course, will be attributable to betting on greyhound racing. I hope that voluntary arrangements can be found to direct some of that money to help the greyhound racing industry, and my right hon. Friend will be exploring the possibilities with interested parties.

I should also tell right hon. and hon. Members quite clearly what I am not proposing. I know that there is particular concern about the European Commission's proposals on the taxation of alcohol. But let me make it clear: I will not accept any deal in Brussels that would ride roughshod over the interests of the British cider industry. Nor will I accept a deal that would allow member states to continue to levy no excise duty on wine which they make but which forces them to put up duties on spirits which we make.