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Scrap the beer tax to save our pubs, say MPs
A CONTROVERSIAL beer tax should be scrapped to halt the demise of Hampshire’s pubs, say MPs.
Yesterday the Government was told the beer duty escalator was leading to falling sales and killing Britain’s pubs.
There were also warnings about the rocketing price of a pint compared to cut-price supermarket deals and calls for a clampdown on pubs being converted into supermarkets.
But ministers stood firm, insisting the inflation-busting duty was here to stay.
Southampton Itchen MP John Denham condemned Enterprise Inns and Tesco over the closure of the Castle Pub in Midanbury, saying residents had been kept in the dark over the pub’s change of ownership.
He said: “It was deeply unpopular with the 600 people who signed a petition in the area, partly because they didn’t want to lose the pub, partly because they didn’t want a Tesco.
“But they were entirely powerless to influence the decision.”
The Labour MP pointed to a number of Southampton pubs that have recently been converted into supermarkets, saying “something was wrong with public policy” if relatively safe pubs were being replaced by cut-price off-licences that made it easy for people to drink too much at home.
Controversial proposals to turn the Hampshire Yeoman pub in Blackfield into a Sains-bury’s, currently before New Forest planners, have also sparked an outcry in the local community.
Romsey and Southampton North MP Caroline Nokes told MPs the boss of a micro brewery in Flack Manor had told her the duty was “deeply harmful” to his business.
She said: “The pub trade employs nearly 1,000 people in my constituency and contributes more than £14 million to the local economy, but publicans tell me that their trade is held back by a policy based on false assumptions about its social, economic and health benefits.”
Ms Nokes described closures of pubs like the Vine Inn in Stockbridge, adding: “The tax raises little revenue, causes unemployment and encourages binge drinking on cheap alcohol – and the taxpayer has to bear the burden.”
But Treasury Minister Sajid Javed told MPs: “Cancelling the two per cent rise for beer – the duty escalator – would cost £35m next year and £70m the following year. If those taxes were cancelled it would mean that revenue would have to be recouped one way or another – either from further public spending cuts or increases in other taxes or duties.”
Mr Javed rejected the claim that hikes on beer tax were kill-ing pubs, pointing to the large number of closures in the early 2000s – before the “escalator” was introduced. Highlighting “lifestyle changes” and people switching to other drinks, the minister said: “It’s those factors that are determining the size of the pub sector – not just duties.”
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