I thank my hon. Friend for raising that point, which is one of those that needs to be considered. I understand the Treasury’s concerns about the risk of fraud, the ability to actually enforce it, and particularly, at the moment, legality under the current European duty framework.
Beer duty has divided this House in the past, but there is now a general agreement on all sides that it is already high and we certainly need to avoid rises. When the hated beer duty escalator was introduced by Gordon Brown, beer duty rose by a staggering 42%, while beer consumption in the UK fell by 16% overall and by nearly a quarter in our pubs. Almost 7,000 pubs called time for good, and more than 58,000 beer-dependent jobs were lost. This was a very expensive policy failure, and the price was paid by beer drinkers, publicans and employees alike. I am delighted that, as a country, we are now drinking more beer but also paying less tax on it as a proportion of the cost. However, the amount of this beer being sold in pubs continues to fall, and while the rate of pub closures has slowed, as I said, they are still closing at a disturbing rate.