Norfolk publicans welcome review of controversial ‘beer duty escalator’

Publicans have been given a lifeline in their struggle for survival after MPs unanimously backed a call to ministers to review the controversial 'beer duty escalator' which results in beer duty increasing by 2pc above inflation each year.

Economic Secretary Sajid Javid claimed during a Commons debate yesterday that if the escalator were axed the Treasury would need to find another �35m in taxes annually or cut spending.

But the government will now conduct a review of the economic and social impact of the escalator which has been blamed for plummeting beer sales as 16 pubs a week close and is due to last until 2014/15.

Kevin Hopkins, who runs Norwich pubs The Rose in Queens Road and the Ketts Tavern in Ketts Hill, said: 'It was positive to see 20 speakers sticking up for pubs. The escalator needs to be scrapped and hopefully that will be the decision the governemnt reaches before next year's budget.

'They also came up with some good suggestions like a different rate of duty on draft beer, which would help pubs against supermarkets. There was also a lot of talk about bringing in minimum pricing of alcohol in supermarkets, which should happen soon.'

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Mr Hopkins was disappointed by the absence of both Norwich MPs at the debate. Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said she had a prior commitment in Norwich, while Simon Wright, Norwich South MP, said before the debate that it would be difficult to assess the impact of beer duty on the pub industry.

Waveney MP Peter Aldous spoke at the debate and said afterwards: 'I thought it was a very straightforward motion. The pub and brewing industry has a very good story to tell and it needs to be highlighted. The beer duty escalator is crucifying the industry.'

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Community Pubs Minister and Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis also attended the debate which had been requested by MP Andrew Griffiths, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on beer, after an e-petition reached 100,000 signatures. He claiming scrapping the escalator 'would save thousands of jobs in the first year alone and stop the closure of hundreds of pubs in all of our communities'.

MPs heard the duty rose by a 'crippling' 42pc since 2008, with sales plunging 16pc - the equivalent of 1.5 billion pints - depriving the Treasury of tax from lost sales.

Afterwards, the Campaign for Real Ale's chairman Colin Valentine said passing the motion for the review was a major step forward for the industry 'and sends out a clear message from inside Westminster that enough is enough.'

British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds said the appraisal would show 'above-inflation increases in beer tax do not make sense'.

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