Duty petition hits magic number

100,000 signatures means beer tax debate moves a step closer

THE British Beer & Pub Association is confident a debate on beer duty will be held in the UK parliament after an e-petition calling for a tax freeze hit the 100,000 signature mark.

The online Save Your Pint petition calls for an end to the drinks duty escalator, under which beer tax has soared by 42% since March 2008.
According to the BBPA, 6000 pubs have closed since the escalator was introduced by the last UK government, with a typical British pub now hit with a £66,500 duty and VAT bill every year. It also claims research shows the policy will cost 5000 jobs this year alone, adding that any revenue gained by the Treasury is “wiped out” by pub closures and job losses.
Now there’s a chance those issues will be debated in the House of Commons after the e petition – launched by the firm behind Hobgoblin beer in February and backed by groups including the BBPA and CAMRA and Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA) – has been signed by 100,000.
For a debate to be held, an MP must present the issue to the Backbench Business Committee, which will decide whether it merits parliamentary time.
BBPA spokesman Neil Williams said the group has high hopes it will happen.
“We’re fairly confident we can achieve it because of the volume of support we have; there are very few petitions which have secured this level of support,” he told SLTN.
“Supportive MPs are already asking for a debate so we are confident of securing one.”
Paul McDonagh, who runs renowned Glasgow beer pub the Bon Accord, said a debate on beer duty was long overdue. But he remains to be convinced it will change anything.
“You’ve got to look at it and say, where does it [duty] go from here?” he said to SLTN.
“Realistically, how far away will it be before we’re looking at a £4 pint? You’re only talking about it being a couple of years before it becomes a standard thing.
“A lot of people are spending less when they go out, because they’ve got less income. Even people who have income – and I speak to people constantly – are watching what they’re doing.
“They [government] can’t keep going on and on – you just need to look at the number of pubs that are closing.
“But I’m not sure it [the debate] will do any good – we’re an easy touch.”
Despite his lack of confidence, McDonagh welcomed the publicity the petition has generated, as it makes drinkers aware of how much of the price of the pint is taken by tax, which the petition estimates to be a third.