Renewed calls for beer duty freeze as consumption falls

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Beer duty Beer Alcoholic beverage

Beer consumption fell 2 per cent last year
Beer consumption fell 2 per cent last year
People in the UK are consuming less beer and more strong spirits and wine, according to new consumption figures, prompting renewed calls for a beer duty freeze.

Total alcohol consumption in the UK in 2010 increased by 0.6 per cent, compared to a 6.1 per cent fall in 2009. However, beer consumption last year declined by 1.9 per cent, according to British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) figures based on data from HM Revenue & Customs.

BBPA says the data reveal a clear trend away from lower-strength alcohol towards stronger drinks, such as spirits and wine, which saw consumption increases of 4 and 1.1 per cent respectively in 2010.

Beer tax

The figures prompted BBPA to again call for an end to the beer duty escalator, and freeze beer duty in the 23 March budget.

Since 2008 beer tax has increased by 26 per cent and VAT has risen to 20 per cent. The beer duty escalator has automatically increased beer duty by 2 per cent above inflation each year.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) ​has predicted that a pint of real ale in pubs could reach £2.90 this year — up from £2.45 in 2008.

Freeze beer duty

“With total alcohol consumption nearly 12 per cent lower per head than in 2004, these figures show that we need to look beyond the headline figures when it comes to shaping alcohol policy,” said Brigid Simmonds, BBPA chief executive.

“Scrapping plans for further rises in beer duty in the budget, would also send a signal on encouraging consumption of lower-strength drinks, and crucially at this time, this could also save over 10,000 UK jobs, protecting Treasury revenues, and stop several more pence being added to the price of a British pint, further hitting UK consumers.

“The Government says it wants to champion pubs, and herald a great UK manufacturing revival. Our brewing industry is the perfect place to start.”

Beer exports

BBPA has also urged tax relief for brewers to help boost exports and contribute towards the nation’s economic recovery.

According to HM Revenue & Customs export data, beer exports were up 24 per cent in 2010, increasing in value to £544m. The rise equates to 230 million extra pints of exported beer.

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