MPs in Westminster have raised their concerns about the impact beer duties and high business rates are having on local businesses.
Ahead of next month’s budget, MPs have called on the government to cut the taxes levied on pubs and breweries, the costs of which have caused many pubs to go out of business. Since 2010, approximately 6,000 pubs have closed, although the first increase in pub numbers for a decade was recorded at the end of 2019.
Tory MP Mike Wood noted that almost 9,000 jobs depend on the pub and brewery industries, and suggested that there was a “basic fairness issue” when pubs account for just 0.5% of rate paying businesses and yet contribute 2.8% of all rates collected.
MPs emphasised the importance that pubs have in their local communities, with Tory MP Giles Watling reminiscing about a pub that he used to frequent near Stratford-on-Avon : “I went back after 20 years or so… to the same village. The pub had closed and been developed into housing. I now found this place where people were no longer talking to each other. The heart had been torn out of the community. This village had fundamentally died.”
The SNP’s Stephen Flynn raised concerns in opposition to the proposals, noting that alcohol abuse in Scotland results in 22 deaths a week: “When we look at taxation, and we certainly support the reform of beer excise duty, when we look at taxation we need to do so with a holistic view in terms of public health.”
Simon Clarke, treasury minister, noted that there was a “clear consensus” among the MPs, but raised concerns about the significant loss in revenue that would result from a cut in alcohol duties. Mr Clarke stated that “the effective inflation means that in real terms, beer duty is being cut every time we have frozen [it] over the course of the last several years….Even in nominal terms, beer duty is now lower than it was in 2012.” However, Mr Clarke did confirm that the government would be reviewing all taxes.
Photo by Amie Johnson