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Thursday, 18 September 2014

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Cumbrian MP says stop the beer escalator

Jennings Brewery is backing a campaign to persuade Chancellor George Osborne to scrap the beer-duty escalator.

Tony Cunningham photo
Tony Cunningham

Around 1,200 members of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) and others within the industry descended on Parliament this week for a mass lobby of MPs.

Camra believes that the escalator, which increases the duty on beer by two per cent above inflation each year, is forcing pubs out of business.

Gaynor Green, brewery manager for Jennings, said: “We are fully behind scrapping the beer duty escalator, which is a hidden tax that hits consumers directly in the pocket.

“Tax on beer has increased by over 40 per cent since 2008, which puts extra pressure on publicans as a result.

“The escalator was inherited from the previous Government and if it was halted at the 2013 budget it would go some way to support pubs, which are after all the heart of every community.”

Camra says the lobby of Parliament on Wednesday was the biggest campaigning event in its 40-year history.

It argues that, since the duty escalator was introduced in 2008, the number of regular pub goers in the UK has declined by 3m while 5,800 pubs have shut.

Duty and VAT now account for more than a third of the price of a pint giving Britain one of the highest rates of tax on beer in Europe.

A 106,000-signature e-petition has already forced a Parliamentary debate on the issue.

Colin Valentine, Camra chairman, said: “Over the past 40 years there have been few threats to the UK pub industry as severe as the beer-duty escalator.

“The Government do not appear to have woken up to the crippling social and economic impact their actions are having on pubs.”

Workington MP Sir Tony Cunningham was among 132 MPs to sign a Commons early-day motion earlier this year, calling on the Chancellor to scrap the escalator.

He believes that more and more pubs will go if duty continues to rise faster than inflation.

He said at the time: “The pub is a traditional British institution and it would be a sad day if we lost it. The way things are going, that’s a real danger.

“All the publicans I talk to are struggling. People aren’t going out because the price of beer is so high or they are drinking at home until nine or ten o’clock before going out.

“If we are to tackle binge drinking, then the pub is the place to do it. When people drink at home there’s nobody to say ‘you’ve had enough’.”

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