The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) notes that “pubs are at the cornerstone of our communities, offering a safe and social space for people to meet, providing 900,000 jobs across the UK and contributing £23 billion to the economy.” However, it states that “despite their great value, 18 pubs a week are forced to close their doors for good, to the detriment of communities and the local economy they once served.” It therefore calls for the Government to introduce “a support package for pubs to help stem closures.” Britain’s Beer Alliance is also campaigning on this issue, with its “Long Live the Local” campaign.
I am aware that the pub sector supports 900,000 jobs, generates £23 billion in economic value and provides £13 billion in tax revenues. In addition, 30 million adults visit the pub every month. I also appreciate that pubs continue to be under severe threat, and I agree that we must do what we can to support them.
Pubs face a range of tax pressures, including beer duty, business rates, and VAT. As you may know, at the 2018 Budget the Chancellor confirmed that duty rates on beer, cider and spirits would remain frozen. I know that this announcement was welcomed by many stakeholders in the pub sector, including the Long Live the Local campaign.
The Government has said there is no suggestion that freezes in duties on beer, spirits or cider will necessarily continue in future Budgets. The Government has also indicated that future duty decisions will be considered on their own merit and informed by a number of factors, such as protecting pubs, public health, and growing regional economies.
I believe that the current system for alcohol duties is not clear and the way in which we tax alcohol does not necessarily correct its social costs. I, therefore, think that it would be sensible for the Government to look at the whole framework for alcohol duties.
On beer and pubs more generally, at the 2017 general election I stood on a manifesto that committed to set up a national review of local pubs to examine the causes for their decline, as well as establishing a joint taskforce that will consider their future sustainability. I also pledged to give communities more power to shape their town centres, including by strengthening powers to protect pubs.
I agree with many constituents that have contacted me to say that pubs are at the heart of the UK’s communities and play an important role in our national economy.