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MPs rally to oppose beer tax

Published:  10 February, 2009

Over 100 MPs are to lobby government to cut a beer tax plan for April's budget.

Some 113 members representing all three of the main parties have joined forces and signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) critical of the planned tax hike. Fifty Labour MPs, 40 Liberal Democrats and 17 Conservatives alongside three independents, two from Plaid Cymru and one Scottish National member, have signed the motion.

Chancellor Alistair Darling faces increased pressure to shelve his controversial annual beer tax escalator that will see duty rise by 2% above inflation for the next four years following a 17% rise last year.

The rise is expected to heap even more pressure on the embattled pub trade which is already witnessing six pub closures per day.

Disquiet over the planned beer duty is growing, according to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA). An 'Axe the Tax' campaign run in tandem with the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) ha garnered significant public support.

BBPA chief executive, Rob Hayward, says: "The beer and pub industry is not looking for any special favours. But at a time when the rest of the British economy is receiving tax breaks and public subsidies, the Government's planned tax hikes on beer are both unfair and unsustainable."

Total beer sales dropped by 8.3 per cent in the final quarter of 2008, compared to the same quarter in 2007, according to the UK Quarterly Beer Barometer, the highest fourth quarter fall since records began in 1997.

Chief executive of Camra, Mike Benner, says a third of a pint of beer already went to the taxman but now the Government wanted to increase it still further.

"At a time when pubs are suffering from the wider recession the Chancellor's tax plans will be a hammer blow to consumers and industry alike," Benner said.

The BBPA has secured a meeting with Alistair Darling later this month to discuss duty rises before the Budget.

Further support has come from 95,000 Facebook users who have signed the Save the Great British Pub campaign run on the social networking site.