|From Brew Wales
Chancellor Alistair Darling will be defying the majority of MPs if he goes ahead with tax rises on beer in next week’s budget, according to a poll published today.
Fifty nine per cent of MPs want the Treasury to axe its plans to increase Beer Tax - and, with pubs closing at a record rate of nearly six a day, sixty one per cent of MPs want government action to support the pub as part of local communities.
The poll of MPs was released today a week ahead of the budget by the ‘Axe the Beer Tax - Save the Pub’ campaign, which is spearheaded by the British Beer and Pub Association and CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale.
- ComRes poll shows 59% of all MPs oppose Chancellor’s plans to increase Beer Tax in next week’s Budget
- 41% of all Labour Backbench MPs oppose Beer Tax increase
- 61% of MPs want Government action to support the pub as part of local communities
More than 202 MPs, including 97 Labour backbenchers, have already signed a Parliamentary Motion (EDM 10) supporting the campaign after 25,000 members of the public emailed their MP. In a ComRes poll published last month, 70% of the public said they did not believe that an increase in Beer Tax above inflation was justified in current circumstances.
Jonathan Neame, chief executive of brewer Shepherd Neame, told a Westminster press conference:
‘This poll shows the Chancellor will be over-riding the majority of the Commons if he increases beer tax – as well as the majority of voters and consumers.
‘The economic facts have changed dramatically for the worse since he announced last spring his intention to increase beer tax above inflation year by year. The case for beer tax increases – which we always contested – has been swept away by the recession. The beer and pubs trade has suffered one of its worst years ever.
‘Our message to the Chancellor is – don’t kick this great traditional industry when it is down. When the facts change, change your mind. And rarely have the economic facts changed so fast.’
Mike Benner, chief executive of CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale), said:
‘It is clear that the majority of MPs are in the same place as the majority of consumers – they don’t want further damage done to pubs by further tax increases.
‘We are not asking for special favours, only for a reprieve from an unnecessary and unjustifiable tax rise.
‘The Chancellor needs to recognise the scale of the threat to the traditional pub as more and more close with every month of recession.’
The poll by ComRes shows that MPs agree by a margin of 6-1 that the government should take action to support the British pub as a vital part of social life in communities.
Dr Richard Muir, senior research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research, and author of a recent study of community pubs, ‘The Social Value of Community Pubs’, said:
‘MPs realise that pubs are more than businesses, they have an important role to play in communities. The government should not under-estimate the value of what is lost to community life when the local pub closes.’
1. Key findings from the Com Res poll are:
- The majority of MPs (59%) say that government plans to increase the tax on a pint of beer over and above the rate of inflation are not justified, while 32% say that they are justified. The vast majority of Conservative MPs (91%) say that this planned increase is not justified, compared to 41% of Labour MPs and 75% of Liberal Democrats. However, that over four in ten Labour MPs effectively say that they oppose the proposals of their party on the issue of beer tax is worthy of note.
- The majority of MPs (83%) agree that the government should enforce existing laws to deal firmly with irresponsible drinkers and premises before introducing new ones. Only 5% of MPs disagree with this statement.
- A similar proportion of MPs (84%) agree that the government should take action to end irresponsible drinks promotions by alcohol retailers, with just 9% saying that they disagree. Labour MPs (93%) are considerably more likely to agree that the government should take action to end irresponsible drinks promotions by alcohol retailers than their Conservative counterparts (66%).
- More than half of MPs (54%) agree that the government should trust adults to make informed choices about what they drink, not penalise them for the actions of an irresponsible minority, while 21% disagree with this statement. Again, a party split is evident, where considerably more Conservative MPs (81%) agree that the government should trust adults to make informed choices about what they drink, not penalise them for the actions of an irresponsible minority than Labour MPs (43%).
- The majority of MPs (61%) agree that the government should take action to support the British pub as a vital part of social life in local communities. Just 11% disagree with this statement. Conservative MPs appear to have a more positive and favourable opinion of British pubs than their Labour and Liberal Democrat counterparts, with 76% agreeing that the government should take action to support the British pub as a vital part of social life in local communities, compared to 55% of Labour MPs and 65% of Lib Dems who say the same.
ComRes surveyed 150 MPs on the ComRes parliamentary panel between 23rd February
and 13th March 2008 by self-completion postal questionnaire. Data were weighted to
reflect the exact composition of the House of Commons in terms of party representation
and regional constituency distribution. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules (www.britishpollingcouncil.org
Previous polling on this issue
A ComRes poll published on 3rd March 2009 showed that 70% of the public believe beer tax increases above inflation are not justified.
The IPPR paper, ‘The Social Value of Community Pubs’, was published on 31st March 2009.
2. Key industry statistics:
· Britain’s pubs and brewers directly employ 600,000 people and support a further 550,000 jobs. The sector generates £28 billion in economic activity.
· Total beer sales are down 9 million pints a day since the peak of 1979. Beer sales in pubs are down 16 million pints a day over the same period, and are now at their lowest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s – despite a 36 per cent increase in the UK population.
· Pub closures have continued to accelerate, with an unprecedented 2,000 closures in the last 12 months. This means that 39 pubs are closing a week or six every day. 20,000 jobs have been lost across the sector in the last year, with a further 59,000 projected to be lost in the next five years (Oxford Economics).
· In November 2008, the Government increased beer tax for the second time in nine months - a 17.8 per cent rise in total during 2008 placing an additional £520 million cost increase on the sector.
3. The Axe the Beer Tax - Save the Pub Campaign was launched in November by the British Beer & Pub Association, and beer consumer champion, CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale. For more information, please visit the campaign website at www.axethebeertax.com.