Chancellor accused of "conning" beer drinkers

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Chancellor Gordon Brown has been accused of "conning" beer drinkers into thinking they will get cheaper pints, after he halved the beer duty paid by...

Chancellor Gordon Brown has been accused of "conning" beer drinkers into thinking they will get cheaper pints, after he halved the beer duty paid by small brewers.

In yesterday's Budget, Mr Brown announced that "the duty paid on small brewers' beer would will be halved" - equal to 14p off the price of a pint. He said the cut would be implemented this summer - "in time for the World Cup".

But Rob Hayward, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said the cuts were conning drinkers into thinking they will get cheaper beer, when in fact they were aimed at helping small brewers to compete.

He added: "Small brewers across the country such as St Austell, Bateman's and Timothy Taylor, among many others, will not qualify for the proposed tax break.

"Gordon Brown has preferred to tinker with beer duty rates rather than act decisively."

The cut will only benefit brewers producing less than three million litres of beer a year. And Mr Brown did not cut tax on other beers, wine and spirits - instead choosing to freeze duty.

The Independent Family Brewers of Britain (IFBB), most of whose medium-sized members will not benefit from the cut, called it "the worst possible scenario".

Stuart Neame, vice chairman of Kent brewer Shepherd Neame and the IFBB, said it merely deflected interest away from Britain's high duty rates. "We estimate that the duty cut will affect only one pint in every 100 consumed in the nation's pubs," he said.

"It won't really help the microbrewers who will be expected to pass on any duty changes to their customers. And it does nothing to benefit the 99 per cent of drinkers who enjoy national and regional beers such as those produced by family brewers."

But the Society of Independent Brewers, which represents many of the UK's smallest brewers, said it was pleased with the cut.

President Carola Brown said: "We thank the government for its recognition of the role small brewers play as a vital and innovative part of the brewing industry and in the life of beer consumers, pubs and communities. This measure will enable small brewers to survive, grow and enhance this role."

Consumer group the Campaign for Real Ale also welcomed the news. Spokesman Mike Benner said: "This will help even out the playing field for Britain's 350 small brewing companies which will promote competition and increase consumer choice."

The Wine and Spirits Association said while it welcomed Mr Brown's recognition of small brewers it was disappointed small British wineries had not been given a similar duty cut.

More on Budget 2002:

  • Small businesses boost from red tape cuts
  • PPSs hit by 65 per cent duty rise
  • Responses from the trade

Related stories:

Brewers hope for duty announcement in Budget speech (5 April 2002)

MPs back call for duty cut on small brewers' beers (20 March 2002)

Government confirms sliding scale of beer duty (1 March 2002)

Sussex microbrewer calls for sliding duty (1 February 2002)

Duty cut campaign gathers pace in run-up to budget (18 January 2002)

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