I have been contacted by a number of constituents regarding the planned rise to Beer Duty in the 2019 Autumn Budget.
I should say, first of all, that I very much agree that pubs are vital to our local economy. Across the UK, pubs generate £18 billion of revenue, supporting almost 800,000 jobs.
I oppose further increases in beer duty because they harm local pubs, increase the cost of living and deter customers from moving away from drinks with a higher alcohol content such as spirits. During the Coalition Government, Liberal Democrats abolished the beer duty escalator and cut beer duty for three years in a row, taking 3p off the cost of a pint.
Unfortunately, the Conservative Government has abandoned this policy. They increased beer duty in 2017 by 2p per pint, which Liberal Democrat MPs voted against. Former Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron MP tabled a motion in the House of Commons calling on the Government to freeze beer duty for the next five years.
Meanwhile, many of England’s local pubs are threatened by the recent revaluation of business rates. Property values in town centres have increased far quicker than in out-of-town areas, meaning that pubs face an additional tax bill of £421 million over the next five years. This is equivalent to a 30p increase in the price of a pint.
Business rates are clearly not fit for purpose. As online shopping continues to place pressure on high street shops, it is unfair that businesses are charged on the value of their properties. That is why my party campaigned at the 2017 General Election for a review of the business rates system itself, so that all businesses – large or small, online or offline – pay their fair share.
However, steps need to be taken now to protect local pubs, shops and pharmacies faced with a hefty tax bill. The Government said it would provide emergency funding to protect businesses facing the largest tax increases. However, the scheme was not set up in time. In the five months after the new scheme was announced, just 2% of councils distributed any funding. This is not acceptable.
I wrote out to Philip Hammond MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, to put forward the concerns raised with me by constituents and I include below a copy of the response I have received.
I am always happy to support local pubs and CAMRA, as well as urging the Government to commit to supporting the beer and pubs industry across the UK. I very much believe that pubs are a vital part of the community, often forming the backbone of local economies and I will continue to voice the interests of local pubs in North Norfolk.