Beer tax argument heats up at BeerX event ahead of 2013 Budget

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Beer duty escalator Brewing Cask ale Beer

Shadow Small Business Minister Toby Perkins was speaking SIBA's BeerX conference earlier today
Shadow Small Business Minister Toby Perkins was speaking SIBA's BeerX conference earlier today
Labour may have to retain the controversial Beer Duty Escalator if it came into power at the next election as Shadow Small Business Minister Toby Perkins admitted to brewers at SIBA’s BeerX conference that they ‘can’t solve all the problems facing pubs’.

Less than a week before the 2013 Budget is announced, Perkins was pressed for a commitment to end the Escalator by delegates at the event in Sheffield.

But, while the MP for Chesterfield said he ‘recognised’ the impact that the annual above-inflation tax rises have on pubs, he insisted that ‘a Labour Chancellor would have to address the deficit’ - pointing out that other industry sectors such as construction would also be making the case for special treatment by the Treasury.

“Pubs are not getting the benefit of money spent on alcohol, but are dealing with many of the problems that spending causes,” he said. “No one needs to tell you how diverse the pub industry has become over the past few years.

“We have a diversity of pubs that are the envy of the world, but many of the problems they face are similar. We can’t solve all the problems facing pubs, but we can ensure that anyone entering the industry has a fair crack of the whip.”

Beer tax campaign

SIBA chairman Keith Bott heaped praise on the campaign to end beer tax at the BeerX conference yesterday

The Beer Duty Escalator, introduced by the last Government in 2008 and continued by the coalition, has successively penalised Britain’s beer drinkers by automatically increasing duty levels by 2 per cent above inflation every year. Just yesterday (Thursday) at the same conference, SIBA’s chairman Keith Bott hailed the campaign to end the Beer Duty Escalator as ‘the best in all my time in this industry’.

He said, “The campaign, in which SIBA has been a partner along with the BBPA and CAMRA, has been incredibly effective in winning support from the public and from a growing number of MPs. 

“All the stages in the campaign - from gathering 100,000 signatures for the petition,​to getting the debate that we wanted in the House of Commons​- have been the result of hard work by everyone involved, including SIBA brewers, whose relationships with their local MPs has been a huge benefit.”

Budget hopes

As well as the BBPA and Camra, Bott thanked MP ‘champions’ Andrew Griffiths and Greg Mulholland for their ongoing commitment to ending the Beer Duty Escalator. He added, “The number of MPs who are now voicing support for the escalator to stop is impressive and we can only hope that their views are being heard by the Treasury.

“After many years of meeting Treasury officials and preparing Budget submissions, and lobbying for some movement on beer duty, this year feels more hopeful than any previous ones. 

“The point about escalators is that at some point you have to get off them, and if we don’t get off now, we’ll have lost our industry.  We hope the Treasury has realised this as well and that next Wednesday we’ll have some good news that we can all raise a glass to.”

Winning beers

(L-R): Neil Morrissey; Sean Tomlinson of Cairngorm Brewery Company; Rob Rainey and Cheryl Ford, brewer and brewster at Quantock Brewery and SIBA chief executive Julian Grocock

Meanwhile, sixty local brewers were recognised as winners in the SIBA National Beer Competition 2013, as the best cask, keg and bottled beers were unveiled at SIBA’s BeerX event in Sheffield.

Top honours went to Convivial London Pubs, Cairngorm Brewery Company and Quantock Brewery, named as the SIBA Supreme Champions 2013 in craft beer in keg, bottled beer and cask beer respectively. 

BeerX is a new event run by SIBA in celebration of British beer and brewing. It will take place in Sheffield on 13-16 March. The event will see a number of speakers from the brewing industry in the UK and abroad, as well as politicians and one TV chef, setting out their vision for British beer.

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