Petitioners force MPs to discuss price of a pint

Treasury asked to reconsider annual automatic above-inflation rise by 100,000 signatories

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The Independent Online

MPs will press the Treasury this week to drop the controversial automatic rise in beer duty above the rate of inflation. This follows claims that it could cost the pub and club industry as many as 10,000 jobs over the next two years.

Andrew Griffiths, the chairman of the all party Parliamentary Beer Group requested the debate after an online petition attracted more than 100,000 signatures. He said: "This is a big chance to get the beer duty escalator scrapped once and for all."

The escalator, introduced by the Labour government in 2008, means that duty on beer rises by 2 per cent more than inflation every year automatically.

The motion which will be debated for three hours on Thursday calls for a full review of the escalator and its "economic and social impact" as more and more pubs close.

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) says that one million jobs rely on the £28bn-a-year brewing and pub industries. It says since 2008 beer duty has increased by 42 per cent and now more than £1 goes to the Treasury on every pint sold.

Greg Mulholland MP, the chairman of the Parliamentary Save The Pub group, said: "There has never been a review of the beer duty escalator since its introduction. We are calling specifically for that to happen now before the Budget of 2013 to allow the Treasury to review the situation and make recommendations on how it should change."

The Treasury estimates that next year's beer duty escalator will raise an extra £35m but the BBPA claims that the subsequent drop in beer sales and job losses would far outweigh this.

In the three months to September, the BBPA says beer sales in pubs fell by 4.6 per cent or the equivalent of 117 million fewer pints being drunk than in the same period last year.

Jonathan Neame, the chief executive of Kent-based brewer Shepherd Name and currently chairman of the BBPA, said: "Far from bringing more cash in, we know that huge tax hikes are costing the Government revenues, yet do nothing to tackle the deficit, as the Government claims.

"We also need to recognise that not all drinks are the same. Spirits are now the drink of choice among young adults on a 'big night out', with vodka increasingly favoured by under-18s.

"While taxation is a blunt tool to tackle alcohol misuse, it should at least encourage consumption of lower-strength drinks, like beer."

The Government's side in the debate is likely to be put by Treasury minister Sajid Javid.