The organisation which represents the pub industry in Northern Ireland is calling on local MPs to make a stand against the Treasury’s continued taxation on beer, when the beer duty escalator is debated in the House of Commons today.
Pubs of Ulster has been at the forefront of calls to end the beer duty escalator, driving the UK wide online petition calling for the policy to be scrapped. The petition recently generated over 100,000 signatures, securing a parliamentary debate.
The beer duty escalator, introduced four years ago under the then Labour government, means that duty on beer increases automatically by 2 per cent more than inflation every year. At the last budget, despite the chancellor claiming that there would be no change to beer duty, an overall increase of 5.7 per cent was added due to the beer duty escalator still being in place. In real terms, this has added approximately 10 pence to the price of a pint. Most worryingly however, the duty increase means that publicans are now in fact losing approximately 2 pence on a standard £3 pint of beer.
Commenting ahead of the debate, Colin Neill, chief executive of Pubs of Ulster, said:
“One of the biggest issues threatening the survival of pubs in Northern Ireland is the beer duty escalator. Overall, since its introduction in 2008, duty has risen by 42 per cent and the UK now pays more alcohol duty per unit of alcohol than any country in the EU except Finland. With pubs struggling to come through the ongoing economic storm, as well as trying to meet the many other financial demands that come with owning a pub, the beer duty escalator is an unnecessary burden that we believe will sound the death knell for hundreds of pubs.”
The on-going taxation on beer is having a devastating effect on the local pub trade. The effect of the economic downturn has meant that it has become increasingly difficult for pubs to absorb any increase in taxation. In addition, the licensed trade and wider hospitality sector is a major employer in Northern Ireland and the concern is that thousands of jobs could be at risk if the taxation of pubs continues.
The effect of the beer duty escalator has also been felt by customers, with many being forced to pay more for their pint in cases where pubs have been unable to absorb the duty increase. The danger is, faced with paying more for a pint in their local pub, more people are now opting to avail of the cheap alcohol on offer in supermarkets. Pubs of Ulster says this could fuel the problem of people consuming alcohol in an uncontrolled environment, leading to a possible increase in alcohol related health and social problems.
Calling local MPs to action, Colin Neill added:
“This is the first time that the beer duty escalator will be debated and it offers a real opportunity to call for a review of policy before the next budget in 2013. It is vital however that Northern Ireland’s MPs are present to ensure that the interests of the local licensed trade are represented. We therefore call on our MPs to make a stand on behalf of the licensed trade in Northern Ireland.”