Rishi Sunak Urged To Slash Beer Duty In Budget To Save Pubs Hit By Pandemic
The Chancellor is facing pressure to cut beer duty in next week's budget after 68 Tory MPs said pubs had been hit harder than any other sector during lockdown.
The group wrote to the Chancellor asking him to take further action to protect the industry as they highlighted Brits already paid 11 times more duty on a pint of beer than those in Germany and Spain.
It comes after Boris Johnson announced that pubs would not be able to open fully indoors and outside without restrictions until 21 June at the earliest.
The PM's roadmap could see pubs and restaurants allowed to serve customers outside from 12 April, and indoors with restrictions from 17 May.
Analysis from the British Beer & Pub Association found the first phase of unlocking would only account for 17% of total pub capacity, and warned the cost to the sector would be £1.5bn over the course of the roadmap timeline.
The letter, organised by Conservative backbencher Richard Holden, said “the devastating consequences of the pandemic and the restrictions that have followed” had put the 90,000 jobs provided by the industry at risk.
“Pubs are where communities are strengthened, friendships are made and families come together,” Holden wrote.
“From combating social isolation and loneliness to increasing well being and social connection.”
And while he said the Chancellor's decisions to freeze beer duty in last year's Budget was a "very important step in the right direction", he said a "significant cut" in the tax was now needed to support the sector.
"There is not a person, company or industry in the country that hasn't felt the impact of Covid-19, but the beer and pub industry whilst hit particularly hard remains a vital part of the UK economy and UK life,” the letter continued.
Holden said the cut was both a "short-term ask" to support the sector through the pandemic, and a "fundamental change" to reduce the tax which he claimed has been "too high, for too long."
He added it was a "shocking fact that Britain pays more in beer duty each year than France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Ireland combined".
"The average UK pint is taxed 11 times higher than the equivalent pint in Germany or Spain, which puts our brewing, hospitality and tourism sector at a significant disadvantage to our European friends, whilst further discouraging much needed investment in the industry."
The move was welcomed by industry campaign groups, including David Cunningham, programme director for Long Live The Local, who said: "We have gathered more than 500,000 signatures and 275,000 people have written to the MP since the campaign started. Each signature and email represent someone who cares deeply about pubs and breweries and wants the Government to ensure they can continue to play a vital role in their local community and economy.
"I'm pleased to see so many MPs have recognised how much their constituents want to see a cut in Beer Duty."
Meanwhile, Emma McClarkin, Chief Executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: "Pubs are at the heart of our communities and a vital part of the UK economy, with a presence in just about every city, town and village across the country. Amid this crisis though they face an existential threat, and thousands could be lost for good.
"It is up to the Chancellor... to deliver the support our pubs and brewers need. That includes a beer duty cut that allows them to survive and thrive in the future.
"I hope he listens to our sector and those on his backbenches pleading him to do the right thing."
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe