MPs Call For An End To Beer Tax Hikes
MPs have called for an end to the above-inflation beer tax to protect the brewing industry and save Britain's struggling pubs at a debate in Parliament.
The duty escalator - introduced by Alistair Darling when he was chancellor in 2008 - pushes the price of a pint up 2% above inflation, and is not due to end until 2014.
Scrapping the tax rise would see more people head to pubs, boosting the economy and raising more tax for the Treasury, argued Conservative MP Andrew Griffiths.
"Scrapping the beer duty escalator would save thousands of jobs in the first year alone and stop the closure of hundreds of pubs in all of our communities," he said.
"This is a huge opportunity to bring balance and fairness into the duty system and to support our pubs and breweries."
It comes as new figures revealed that between March and September, 18 pubs closed every week across the UK - up from 12 a week during the previous six months.
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) said the increase in pub closures was due to low supermarket pricing, poor consumer confidence and "the burden of taxation".
"With pubs finding it ever harder to maintain consistent footfall at a time when prices are ever increasing, it is only hoped that Parliament will today take the first steps by voting to review punitive taxation policies on Britain's national drink," the organisation's chief executive, Mike Benner, said.
Mr Griffiths, who led the Commons debate, said beer duty had risen by a "crippling" 42% since the escalator was introduced in 2008.
Over those four years beer sales have plummeted 15% - equating to around of 1.5 billion pints - depriving the Treasury of tax from lost sales, he added.
"The point about an escalator is that you stop when you get to the top," the Burton MP, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on beer, said.
"We have reached the top of the escalator and we are in danger of going off the edge of a cliff."
Over 100,000 people signed a Government e-petition demanding Westminster address the issue amid growing concern for the future of local pubs and the brewing industry.
The campaign has gained cross-party support ahead of Chancellor George Osborne's autumn statement on December 5.
Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland, the chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group, said the tax "simply doesn't add up".
"The simple reality is that since 2004 beer duty rates have increased by 60%, and beer duty revenue by just 10%," he said.
"That is actually a significant fall in real terms."
He called for a review of the duty escalator, saying it "doesn't make economic sense, it doesn't make social sense, it's unfair, it's unsustainable and it's unjustifiable".
Labour's Iain Wright has demanded that the growing difference in prices between pints in pubs and beer in supermarkets is tackled.
"If we value as a country the social and economic importance of the pub as a focal point for the community and as a means of encouraging responsible and supervised drinking, what steps can the Government take to nudge consumers towards drinking beer in pubs?" he said.