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Call Time on Duty: Beer sales up due to impact of duty cuts

Published:  28 January, 2014

Beer sales in the off trade rose 3.9% by volume in the fourth quarter of 2013, marking increases for two consecutive quarters for the first time in 10 years, following the cut in beer duty last year.

According to the British Beer & Pub Association, total beer sales rose 0.8% for Q4 2013, translating to an extra 15.3 million extra pints being sold on the same period in 2012. 

Brigid Simmonds, OBE, chief executive of the BBPA, said: "These figures demonstrate that cutting the beer duty helps increase beer sales, stimulates industry investment and saves jobs."

The Wine & Spirits Trade Association has been spearheading the Call Time on Duty campaign, setting out the political, economic and public argument for a freeze in the duty escalator on wine and spirits, similar to what beer has successfully done.

Call Time on DutyCall Time on DutyCall Time on Duty

WSTA-commissioned research from Ernst & Young shows that if the duty escalator was halted in the 2014 Budget it would create 6,000 new jobs and raise £230 million in extra revenue for the Treasury.

There is still time for you and suppliers to get involved.

Together Harpers and the WSTA have drafted an open letter for producers of wine and spirits to give their support to an industry-wide campaign to get the Chancellor of the Exchequer to halt the duty escalator of alcohol in the 2014 Budget. Please see the full letter below.

To take part a producer simply has to send an email stating their support for the open letter from drinks producers to the Chancellor to and to stating who they are, their position, their company and what type of business they do in the UK.

All replies both from trade responses and from wine producers will be collated and sent together direct to the Chancellor.

All members of the UK wine and spirits industry can get involved by sending an open letter to their local MP setting out the arguments for the campaign and calling on their support. The open letter can be found on the dedicated Call Time on Duty website or by clicking here.

The full producer letter to the Chancellor is presented below: 

Letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer


As a producer of wines and/or spirits who exports to the UK, I am writing to express my support for the 'Call Time On Duty' campaign, which is calling for an end to the UK alcohol duty escalator. I am concerned about the UK's high rates of excise duty on alcohol, particularly about the impact of the escalator, which is undermining the competitiveness of the UK market as an attractive export destination.

Call Time on Duty


As an exporter to the UK I find it incredible that in the UK nearly 80% of an average priced bottle of spirits and approaching 60% of the cost of an average priced bottle of wine is accounted for in tax. This is ridiculously high, especially if you consider that the tax on an average priced bottle of wine in France is only 20% and in Spain 21%. Incredibly the UK now pays nearly 40% of all alcohol duty in the EU, this equates to over two-thirds of all wine duty in the EU and a quarter of all spirits duty.


I just cannot see how it is fair to hit exporters with an alcohol super tax that keeps on rising by 2% above inflation, year on year, particularly given the UK is one of the world's largest wine markets. The cost of excise duty is already high enough without further increasing the tax on wine and spirits, which is what will happen unless time is called on this unpopular alcohol super tax in the 2014 Budget.


I know that you have spoken of creating new jobs and cutting taxes. Scrapping the escalator would do both. Independent research from EY (Ernst and Young) shows that 6,000 new jobs could be created and £230 million of additional public finances generated by ending the escalator one year early.


Scrapping the duty escalator and freezing further inflationary increases would also help to support struggling British pubs. Retaining the duty escalator on wines and spirits in 2013 increased the tax bill for pubs, bars and restaurants by £34 million. This simply does not make sense when 26 million people in the UK drink wine in pubs, bars and restaurants, and wine and spirits already account for almost half (42%) of their alcohol sales.


Almost two million people in the UK depend on the alcohol industry for their livelihoods, while the industry generates £38 billion for the economy annually and pays £17 billion in tax. Responsible drinkers deserve a freeze in alcohol duty, not another inflation-busting tax hike.


As a producer and exporter to the UK, I fear that the UK market is no longer the attractive destination it once was, putting at risk further investment in jobs and economic growth. It is certainly affecting my company's decision on doing business in the UK. 


We urge you to use the 2014 Budget to do the right thing and scrap this deeply unpopular super tax, which is an increasingly prohibitive barrier to trade.