MPs back calls to freeze or reverse beer duty escalator

July 13th, 2012

MPs have called on the government to freeze or reverse the beer duty escalator which has seen the price of a pint spiral.

Almost 40 MPs remained in the Commons until the early hours of Tuesday morning to urge ministers to reduce the tax sold on beer in pubs.

Gavin Williamson, the Tory MP for South Staffordshire, was supported by nearly 40 MPs during an adjournment debate.

Such debates rarely attract more than a handful of parliamentarians, but 38, mostly Conservative members, stayed late to offer support to Williamson.

Some 86% of beer sold in pubs is brewed in the UK, while just 0.2% of wine sold in pubs is produced in this country, he argued.

“The simple reality is that beer duty is getting to the point where it is too high and it’s pricing people out of the market,” said Williamson.

Leading beer writer and columnist Pete Brown said he was “pleasantly surprised” that MPs had lent their voices to defending the Great British pub.

Brown said: “A lot of the debate in the industry has been idealistic and I am coming to realise that idealism has nothing to do with it – it is pragmatism that appeals to MPs. The pasty tax captured the public mood and as soon as it did that MPs got behind it.

“The fact that 40 MPs have backed this shows the message must be getting through. Some of them love pubs genuinely but I think most probably are thinking: ‘My constituency is full of boarded up pubs and constituents are not happy. I better do something about it’.”

Brown, highlighting the importance of the pub to jobs in Britain, added: “You have got close to 1,000 breweries in this country, there are huge ones but also ones with two or three people.

“As well as breweries you have pubs, with each pub closure there are typically 20-odd jobs lost, even if some of them are part-time. a pub is the fulcrum of the local community and when a pub closes that goes too.

“Other people around the world think our pubs are amazing so it is frustrating when successive governments don’t give a s**t about them. It’s something we do well and we are famous around the world for brewing.”

But Treasury minister Chloe Smith said the government has to look at how to cut the budget deficit.

Smith said she wanted to dissuade people from drinking cheaper alcohol at home before going out and added: “The decline that some talk about in the industry is influenced by a number of factors – people’s habits are changing, people have more choice. The moving of the escalator would not solve this problem.”

MPs back calls to freeze or reverse beer duty escalator

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