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Beer duty freeze important for hospitality, Sir Keir Starmer says

Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to Gabardine Bar in Basingstoke (PA)
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to Gabardine Bar in Basingstoke (PA)

Frozen beer duty is important for pubs, Sir Keir Starmer said as he signalled his support for the tax measure.

The Labour leader said he agreed with comments made by Rachel Reeves, where she hinted that a beer duty freeze could continue under Labour.

The shadow chancellor told the Sun newspaper on Monday it had been “right” to campaign for alcohol duties to remain frozen.

But she would not outright commit to maintaining the freeze ahead of polling day, because of the “state of the public finances”.

Asked about the remarks of his colleague, Sir Keir told broadcasters: “I think it is important that we support hospitality and the beer duty is part of the package there.

“I am glad and obviously support what Rachel has already said.

“But it is part of the challenge for small businesses, whether it is hospitality, whether it is retail as we have just been talking about.”

General Election campaign 2024
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer and Theo Paphitis arrive for a visit to the Hampshire School of Jewellery in Basingstoke (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Labour leader’s remarks came after his party set out to promote plans aimed at bringing “new life back into Britain’s high streets”.

The party has proposed opening 350 new banking hubs across the UK in order to revive town centres.

These hubs allow staff from several banks to share the same space, helping to fill gaps left in the system from branch closures.

They have a counter service operated by the Post Office, allowing customers to conduct routine banking transactions.

Labour is proposing to update qualifying criteria for the creation of banking hubs, as well as exploring how hubs can support financial inclusion through digital training and debt advice.

The party said that it would give new powers to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and strengthen regulation to support Link to proactively source locations for new banking hubs.

Labour said the ambition was part of plans for high streets, which also included cracking down on anti-social behaviour and supporting businesses and communities.

The UK Spirits Alliance has urged politicians canvassing for votes to consider a freeze on all alcohol duty in future.

Hilary Whitney, co-founder of Sacred Spirits and member of the UK Spirits Alliance, said: “Politicians need to realise that pubs are more than just pints. A third of all alcoholic drinks served in a pub are spirits, yet they are taxed the highest. A whopping 80% of each bottle of gin currently goes to the taxman.

“At this election, it is important that all politicians back our iconic British spirits industry to protect pubs at home and help grow exports abroad.”