Surrey pub landlord slams industry ‘apathy’ over beer duty escalator petition

By Helen Gilbert

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Beer duty escalator, Excise

The Old Cage, Lingfield: licensee Gus O’Keefe has slammed industry 'apathy' over beer duty escalator petition
The Old Cage, Lingfield: licensee Gus O’Keefe has slammed industry 'apathy' over beer duty escalator petition
A licensee has blasted the sector for its “apathetic” attitude towards the industry petition calling for an end to the duty escalator.

Last week the Publican’s Morning Advertiser (PMA) reported how the Stop the Beer Duty Escalator campaign had fewer than 34,000 signatures — just one third of the number required to trigger a debate in Parliament.

Gus O’Keefe, licensee of the Old Cage, Lingfield, Surrey, who has been lobbying MPs and the Treasury since last year to address the plight of pub owners, said he was left speechless by the low number of signatures.

“I’m amazed it wasn’t straight through the 100,000 mark in a week,” he said.  “How many people work in this industry? Surely the trade can muster enough online signatures to get a debate in Parliament, surely that has to be the first aim?”

O’Keefe, who has been a licensee since 1975, began writing to MPs last year in a bid to seek answers to the rough hand he says the pub industry has been dealt through rising taxes and low supermarket prices.

“Only recently have I despaired so much as to start writing to my MP regarding the way we are being treated by this Government,” he said. “I wonder how many others feeling the same way have targeted their MPs too.”

O’Keefe branded the most recent letter from Conservative MP Sam Gyimah a “disappointment”, particularly the response to his beer duty escalator concerns.

The letter stated that the Government spends over £120m every day on debt interest payments alone. “This is unsustainable and tough decisions are unavoidable. The revenues from alcohol excise duty make an important contribution to reducing the deficit, and the Chancellor had no room to change his Labour predecessor’s plans,” it said.

O’Keefe added: “If everybody were to get in touch with their local MP and register some form of protest it might [make a difference].”
At the time of going to press, the petition stood at just over 38,000 signatures.

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