Beer tax hikes ‘hitting pubs’

The Pink Domino, Catcote Road
The Pink Domino, Catcote Road

HARTLEPOOL MP Iain Wright has highlighted the town’s dwindling pub trade during a House of Commons debate about rising beer taxes.

Mr Wright mentioned how in the early part of the 20th Century, Hartlepool had the highest ratio of pubs to streets in the entire country.

“Sadly that is no longer the case, and we have seen a steady stream of pub closures,” said the Labour MP.

Mr Wright was speaking during a debate on the effects of the beer duty escalator, which he is concerned has not raised that much revenue, considering the current economic climate and trends of people drinking at home and switching to wine.

He described how a planning application for The Pink Domino, in Catcote Road, to be turned into a supermarket, as reported by the Mail, would be a “loss to the community”.

But he added: “However, I am not just looking backwards.

“The pub and brewery trade is still hugely important to my town, both socially and economically. We have first-class pubs, such as the Causeway, the Fishermans Arms, the Pothouse and the Jacksons Arms. Hartlepool has an economy that employs about 34,000 people.

“Of those, some 1,000 are employed in the pub trade, so it is not an insignificant part of the town’s economy.”

Mr Wright asked: “Has the Minister looked at the impact on pubs of that VAT rise, of the rises in barley prices and of the beer duty escalator?

“On the point about raising revenue, it was estimated when the beer duty escalator was introduced in 2008 that it would generate between £500m and £600m for the Exchequer.

“Given the difficulties since then, and the squeeze on household incomes, has it actually generated that much revenue?

He called for answers on how the Government plans to tackle “the growing gulf in prices between pints in pubs and beer in supermarkets”.

Mr Wright asked for assurance that the pub is still valued as one of the great British institutions and that the Government will use the tax system, beer duty and any other methods to ensure that “the pubs and brewing industries of Britain have a brighter and long-term future as part of a revitalised manufacturing base”.

“I think we would all drink to that,” he added.

Easington MP Grahame Morris, who also spoke during the debate, said: “Pubs are a vital part of our social life and are the social hubs of our communities.

“The beer duty escalator, while pushing up the price of alcohol, does not dissuade people from drinking, the opposite is true, with consumers bulk buying beers, wines and spirits at cut prices from supermarkets, to the detriment of UK pubs, who simply cannot compete with supermarket below cost selling.

“The Government must be more proactive, not just to help those pubs struggling now, but to boost growth within the pub and brewing industry.”

Economic Secretary to the Treasury Sajid Javid said the Government recognise the importance to the British economy of pubs and brewers but added : “Cancelling the planned two per cent duty rise represented by the escalator portion of beer duty would cost £35m next year and £70m the following year.

“If that tax were cancelled, the revenue would have to be recouped one way or another, either through further public spending cuts over and above what is already necessary or by finding increases in other taxes.”

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