The British beer and pub industry is today celebrating as the Government e-petition calling on the abandonment of the controversial beer duty escalator has finally exceeded the 100,000 signatures needed to trigger a Parliamentary debate.
The petition is only the 12th Government e-petition to reach the 100,000 landmark out of over 16,000 that have been submitted. The beer duty escalator, introduced by the last Government in 2008 and continued by the coalition, has successively penalised Britain’s beer drinkers by automatically increasing duty levels by 2 per cent above inflation every year.
With the Parliamentary debate now in prospect, the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) is ramping up pressure on Government by announcing it is to hold a Mass Parliamentary Lobby in Westminster on Wednesday, 12 December, with over 1,000 people expected to attend from across the UK.
"Joining a very small minority of e-petitions to have ever reached the 100,000 landmark is a mammoth achievement, and it’s been fantastic to witness the beer and pub industry uniting to fight back against this issue,” said Camra’s national chairman Colin Valentine.
“Over the past six months, Camra has been collecting signatures at beer festivals, organising local campaigning events, as well as supplying pubs with petition material. On Camra’s part, we have devoted a great amount of resources to this campaign, so we are delighted this has all paid off.
“Camra’s next step is not to rest on our laurels but to maintain the impetus with our Mass Parliamentary Lobby, which will reinforce to MPs the groundswell of support for this campaign. With all the battering it has taken, the beer and pub sector still manages to contribute over £21bn a year to the UK’s GDP, and supports one million jobs, so it’s about time the Government honoured its pledge to be ‘pub friendly’”
Beer Duty has risen by 42 per cent since March 2008, when the beer duty escalator was introduced, and 6,000 pubs have closed. A typical British pub in now burdened with £66,500 of duty and VAT on beer every year.
Research by Oxford Economics for the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) shows the policy is costing the industry 5,000 jobs this year alone. With no significant rise in tax revenues, the policy also makes no economic sense, says the BBPA; the paltry, £35m extra duty collected by the Treasury this year, is wiped out by the loss of revenue through job losses, lost VAT and other taxes and the added cost to Britain’s hard-pressed beer drinkers, pubs and brewers.
BBPA Chief Executive Brigid Simmonds said: “Thanks to the huge numbers who are supporting the campaign, this should be a real wake-up call for the Government. I hope even more people will now sign, as further huge annual tax hikes must not go ahead. They are hurting pubs and destroying our ability to create much needed jobs.”
One of the major breakthroughs in the build-up to the petition securing 100,000 signatures included over 15,000 beer-drinkers adding their names to it over the course of the Great British Beer Festival, held at London’s Olympia at the beginning of August.
BigHospitality’s beer tax timeline:
- March 2008 – The discredited beer tax ‘escalator’ policy was introduced by the then-Chancellor Alistair Darling
- March 2009 – Figures revealed that a record 2,000 pubs had closed since Chancellor Alistair Darling increased beer tax in the 2008 Budget , taking with them 20,000 industry jobs
- April 2009 – The pub closures were revealed to have cost the Treasury £242m in lost tax revenue, while 90 per cent of the British public were calling for freeze on beer tax
- April 2009 – A poll commissioned by the Axe the Beer Tax – Save the Pub campaign revealed the majority of MPs opposed Alistair Darling’s plans to increase beer tax ahead of the 2009 Budget
- June 2009 – More figures from the BBPA revealed that Britons are paying the third highest amount of beer tax on a single pint in the EU - nine times more than the Germans
- December 2009 – The Chancellor confirmed that alcohol tax increases will remain in place after announcing in his Pre-Budget Report that the VAT rate will return to 17.5 per cent in January
- March 2010 – Budget 2010: Alcohol duty rose, as planned
- April 2010 – More than 400 would-be MPs signed up to the BBPA’s I'm Backing the Pub campaign
- March 2011 – The rate of pub closures slowed to 25 per week, although government revealed a seven per cent rise in beer tax in the budget
- March 2011 – The pub industry gave its reaction to the 2011 Budget , claiming that the continuation of the beer tax escalator will not only cost the Treasury money, but lose the pub industry ten thousand jobs in 2011
- October 2011 – More bad news. UK pub beer sales were down 4.3 per cent in the third quarter from the same period in 2010 – something the BBPA claimed could be put down to the tax escalator
- November 2011 - Chancellor George Osborne offered help to small and medium-size businesses in his autumn statement, but the BBPA urged action on the escalator
- February - Pub company Admiral Taverns announced it is to freeze the prices of a broad selection of its draught beers in an attempt to hit back at imminent increases in beer tax
- February – Last orders: The British beer and pub industry has unanimously demanded a freeze in the Government’s controversial beer tax escalator ahead of the upcoming budget.
- March – Budget 2012: Beer Tax hikes reach 42 per cent since the first stage of this timeline
- August - 15,000 beer-drinkers add their names to it over the course of the Great British Beer Festival
- September – 100,000 signatures for the beer tax e-petition.