I want to support responsible drinkers, vital community pubs, vibrant town pubs, and important local businesses, such as Harvey’s. As you may already know the last government introduced a beer duty escalator designed to increase tax on beer by 2% above inflation, every year, through to 2015. I did not, and do not, agree with that policy.
This is why, as you know, the coalition last year scrapped the beer duty escalator and went even further, cutting beer duty by 1p a pint. This has been repeated by the Chancellor in the recent 2014 Budget, yet again taking 1p of the price of a pint. On top of this, alcohol duty on cider and spirits has been frozen, while the duties on wine and high strength sparkling cider will only rise in line with inflation.
Lib Dems are also trying to further keep the cost of beer down by stopping large pub companies, the “pubcos”, from charging extortionate prices for beer to their tied pubs. This in turn drives up the price of beer for consumers and is completely unfair to both publicans and punters. Half of Britain’s pubs are tied to pubcos, and often pay between 40% and 45% more for beer than pubs which are not tied, which must therefore be a huge factor in the ever-reducing number of operating pubs in Britain today.
My Lib Dem colleague Business Secretary Vince Cable is setting up an independent adjudicator in the pub industry to tackle unfair practices, such as high rents and the prices publicans have to pay for beer. The adjudicator, combined with last year’s scrapping of the beer duty escalator, will help to make going to the pub more affordable, across the UK.
Lastly, you may be interested to know that I was recently given an award by the industry as a “beer champion” for my activities.