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'Give beer a break', urges SIBA chairman

By Luke Nicholls , 09-Mar-2012

The Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) chairman Keith Bott has called for policy makers to ‘give beer a break’ as he addressed delegates at the organisation’s annual conference yesterday in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Bott claimed that the current iniquitous regime of alcohol taxation is ‘unfair to brewers, to pubs and to drinkers’ and has led to overall beer sales falling, pub closures and ultimately lower revenue from duty into the Treasury’s coffers. 

“SIBA is fully committed to pragmatic reform of alcohol duties,” said Bott. “We are happy to pay our fair share, but not the unfair share we are currently required to contribute.

“Punishing beer duty levels are clearly responsible for the societal changes that have taken place in the 32 years since SIBA was formed.  The alcohol we drink and the way in which we drink it have been reshaped by successive Governments’ taxation policies. 

“The Government seems intent on driving consumers away from beer to drinks with a higher alcohol content, which seems at odds with its policies around alcohol related harm.

 “SIBA’s Budget submission this year presented what we believe to be a very credible proposal to extend SBR to brewers producing up to 200,000 HL annually.  Crucially, we demonstrated how funding for this extension could be achieved simply by pegging the difference between beer and cider duties at its current level.”

Beer tax

Meanwhile, Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) – attended the SIBA Conference and reinstated the Associations view that all brewers, large and small, must unite to overturn the Government’s failed duty escalator policy.

With beer tax up 35 per cent since 2008, Britons pay 40 per cent of the EU beer tax bill, but only consume 13 per cent of the beer sold in Europe.

Speaking at the Conference, Simmonds said: “A freeze in beer tax is essential and this message must be heard loud and clear, from the whole brewing and pub industry. Independent brewers show that British brewing is rooted in every part of the country.

 “It’s a huge asset - and we must use it in the next two weeks. SIBA members and all local brewers have a crucial role to play in pointing out to their local MPs, the importance of the brewing industry its unique local presence, and the pressing need for a tax freeze.”

Research from Oxford Economics backs up the BBPA’s view, revealing that 61 per cent of MPs now have breweries or brewing companies in their constituency (398 out of 650).

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