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Britain’s new budget puts more duty on drinkers, smokers, drivers

British Chancellor Alistair Darling announced on Wednesday a “responsible” budget to put big increases in duty on drinkers, smokers and the drivers of “gas guzzling” cars.

In his first Budget, Darling put 4 pence on a pint of beer, 14 pence on a bottle of wine and 55 pence on a bottle of spirits from midnight on Sunday in a new crackdown on “binge drinking Britain.” At the same time, smokers will pay a heavy price. A packet of 20 cigarettes will cost another 11 pence, while a packet of five cigars will cost an extra 4 pence. Darling also announced higher road tax for the most polluting cars but delayed for six months a 2-pence rise in fuel duty until October 1.

The chancellor said his “responsible” measures would enable him to take further measures to cut child poverty. However, he was forced to slash his forecasts for economic growth to between 1.75% and 2.25% and announced a big increased in government borrowing. He said it would rise to £43 billion(about $86 billion) next year -- an increase of £4.6 billion on his Pre-Budget Report forecast. But he insisted he would still meet the “Golden Rule” of only borrowing to invest and delivering balanced budgets over the economic cycle.

Despite the Northern Rock crisis, which has cost £250 billion, Darling said Britain was better-placed than most to weather the global economic crisis. “The core purpose of this Budget is stability -- now and in the future,” he told members of the Parliament. But Conservative Party leader, David Cameron, dismissed Darling’s claims about the underlying strength of the British economy. He said: “As this country enters troubled times, it could hardly be worse prepared.” (people.com.cn)