Beer Taxation and Pubs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:12 pm on 28th March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Liz McInnes Liz McInnes Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) 2:12 pm, 28th March 2019

Then it could well have been me who poured his pint.

As the hon. Gentleman has just said, pubs are at the heart of our communities. For me, there is no greater pleasure than going down to my local on a Sunday evening—I try to make it my night off from politics—fending off all the queries about Brexit and what on earth we are all doing in this place, as well as providing a sympathetic ear for the landlord’s often expressed concerns about business rates and the future of his pub.

The facts are simple: pubs are closing at a rate of two to three per day. Our high streets are already struggling from the effects of bank branch closures, post office closures and the rise of online shopping. This is just piling on the problems in the face, I am afraid, of this Government’s increasingly incoherent policy on the future of our high streets. Pubs are being taxed left, right and centre with duty, business rates and employment taxes, as well as full VAT at 20%, while people are shopping online, staying at home and not coming out to socialise with others. This is not good for society, and a healthy pub is the heartbeat of its community.

The Campaign for Real Ale is calling for a fundamental review of the tax system to stem the tide of pub closures. CAMRA welcomes the Government’s business rate relief introduced in the 2017 Budget, but has said recently—just this month—that more action is needed to ensure the survival of the remaining 50,000 pubs. I am pleased that the Treasury is reviewing small brewer’s relief, which hon. Members have already mentioned. I look forward to hearing the results of the consultation, which closed on 17 March.

While small brewer’s relief has been helpful in the start-up of many new micro-breweries, it has also meant a reduction of one third of brewers, such as John Willie Lees in my constituency, which are squeezed between the large international brewers, with huge economies of scale, and the smaller brewers that benefit from a beneficial duty rate. As has already been mentioned, business rates do not help, and many pubs are closing because of high costs.