As part of the CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) campaign to scrap the Beer Duty Escalator I took the opportunity to visit the Uley Brewery near Dursley in Gloucestershire to meet with Ken Lush, the Head Brewer. Ken very kindly showed me around the brewery and explained the hard work that goes into making their excellent ales.
The brewing industry, especially small breweries such as Uley, is facing tough times ahead partially due to the Beer Duty Escalator.
A third of your pint now goes to the Government in Duty and VAT - on average that is £1 of the cost of a pint in the pub. Beer tax is set to go up automatically by 2% above inflation every year – this is the Beer Duty Escalator - and it is responsible for increasing the tax on beer by 42% since it was introduced in 2008.
The duty was first proposed by the last Labour Government as a means to cut down on anti-social binge drinking. The problem is that the legislation was short sighted and ill thought through. Anti-social behaviour stemming from binge drinking is a problem relating to alchohol in general and not just pubs in particular. In fact I would much rather that certain sections of British society drank in a pub rather than purchase their drinks from a supermarket and drank it in the street as happens too often in our towns and cities.
As it is the, rising beer tax costs the average pub £66,000 a year and has contributed to the closure of over 6000 pubs since 2008.
Earlier this year CAMRA successfully raised 100,000 signatures on a Westminster petition to launch a debate in Parliament on the 1st November in which several SW Conservative MPs spoke out against the continuing use of the escalator.
In the end the motion calling for its abolition was passed unanimously by the House and I certainly hope that the Government listens to the cross party concerns raised in the debate.
Ashley with Head Brewer, Ken Lush, in the cellars of the Uley Brewery in Gloucestershire