Trade leaders have refused to blame their lobbying tactics in the wake of one of the biggest ever tax hikes to be heaped on the industry by the Chancellor in last week¹s Budget.
Lobbyists said Treasury ministers got a crystal-clear message about the mounting problems heaping up on pubs and the UK¹s declining beer market. But they claimed the huge excise-duty rises showed the Government was not prepared to listen to the trade's case. The duty increases saw 4p slapped onto a pint of beer, 3p on a litre of cider, 15p on a bottle of wine and 55p on a bottle of spirits.
The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), one of the main lobby groups, said the trade was a victim of a classic stealth tax. Communications director Mark Hastings blamed the rises on a Government desperate to stabilise the country's flagging economy.
"Their failure to manage the economy meant they had to find extra money from somewhere and they have selected our industry as an easy target. The conclusion to be reached is that alcohol is seen as an easy way of raising revenue by a Government desperately short of money," he said.
The BBPA has promised a 'microscopic' examination of how the industry carried out its lobbying and whether there were lessons to be learnt. "We will be studying whether there are any parallels with other sectors of industry and how they conducted their discussions with the Treasury," Hastings added.
BBPA chief executive Rob Hayward said: "We will be meeting with the other alcohol organisations shortly for an urgent review. We¹ve also got to take our arguments to Parliament when it discusses the Finance Bill. We all feel shafted, and I know a lot of companies have written to their MPs to complain about the Budget."
The association said there were major challenges ahead following the announcement that duty will rise 2% above the inflation rate annually for the next four years. It hopes to build a broad coalition to take forward the views of the trade and the public over what are seen as swingeing increases in alcohol tax.