Trade leaders have warned that government proposals to force licensees to serve a 100 per cent liquid pint could mean the end of the traditional handpump.
A lively debate, due to be screened today (January 29) at 4pm on Sky's Pub Channel, saw Stuart Neame, vice-chairman of Kent brewer Shepherd Neame, express concern that the plan would lead to the death of the traditional handpump - as publicans would be forced to install metered dispense to avoid short measures.
The proposals mean licensees could face prosecution for serving less than 100 per cent liquid and are likely to lead to the introduction of oversized lined glasses so that beer can still be served with a head.
Neame said: "The handpump is a wonderful British tradition. Someone pressing a button where an electric engine serves the right amount of beer is not what a pub is about."
But Mike Benner from CAMRA defended the association's support of the government plan. He said: "CAMRA surveys show that 80 per cent of people want to have a full liquid pint."
He added that the metered dispense equipment could be made to look like a handpump.
Tim Martin, boss of pub chain JD Wetherspoon which unsuccessfully trialled lined glasses two years ago, dismissed this as "heresy".
He said he was "gobsmacked" that CAMRA was suggesting false handpumps as a solution and added that any change to the law would cost his company between £10,000 and £20,000 per pub.
Neame agreed that costs would increase. "I think CAMRA is hoping for more beer for the same money. If the legislation makes people serve more beer, customers will have to be charged more for it," he said.
"This could be as much as 10p on a pint of Guinness. Any such legislation would bring in the exact opposite of what CAMRA wants."
The Department of Trade and Industry said last week that plans to impose a compulsory 100 per cent liquid pint had been brought in because of widespread inconsistency in pub measures and a failure to abide by the recommended 95 per cent liquid minimum.
The issue is open to consultation until March 3, and trade leaders have vowed to continue lobbying ministers (The Publican Newspaper, January 22).