Griffiths: take action now to help axe the beer tax

By Andrew Griffiths

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Prime minister, Prime minister of the united kingdom

Beer duty: Andrew Griffiths says take action now to help axe the tax
We cannot afford to under-estimate the importance of the next two or three weeks to UK brewers and publicans. In air-conditioned offices somewhere deep in Whitehall, Treasury officials and ministers are putting the final touches to this year’s Budget statement which could shape the future of British beer and pubs for a considerable time.

If we win our campaign to scrap the beer-duty escalator, the industry will have a chance to compete with other sectors on a more level playing field and be able to invest in product development.

But if the mandarins convince George Osborne that they were right all along, we will be locked into two more years of the beer- duty escalator, with devastating consequences.

Recent figures, showing 136 million fewer pints drunk in the UK in the last quarter of 2012 compared to the previous year,  bring the industry’s decline into sharp relief. Preventing that from being terminal  depends on what happens in the next few weeks.

The campaign to scrap the escalator has great momentum. November’s House of Commons debate left Treasury Minister Sajid Javid isolated and demonstrated the strength of MPs’ support. The Campaign for Real Ale’s mass lobby of Parliament just five weeks later shocked MPs with its size and passion.

 For the first time, these two things turned the debate from a complex one of the industry arguing for duty changes to a political one that may influence voters at the next election.

The industry has united and organised to get its point across and the early signs are good. My Early Day Motion has gained the support of 136 MPs — the highest ever — with ministers making positive noises. When I asked the Prime Minister at a recent Question Time to scrap the escalator, he said he had a plan for beer and pubs.  Let’s just hope that plan includes axing the tax.

And visiting Wychwood Brewery last week, Cameron appeared not only ready to listen to  brewers’ concerns, but also well briefed and keen to be supportive.

Could we really have achieved the unthinkable?   We simply won’t know until it is too late to act.  Our only option is to throw everything at this debate.

I’m reminded of the old truism that only 50% of advertising works, but the trick is to know which 50%. Any lobbying in the next few weeks could make the difference — the proverbial straw that broke the Chancellor’s back. Contact your MP and national newspaper bemoaning the hated beer tax. Pen a love letter to Mr Osborne c/o the Treasury in support of your beloved pub or brewer.  

We are at the business end of the debate — so just one more push, my friends. One more heave.

Related topics: Beer