"I have received hundreds of emails and letters from local people concerned about the future of the British pub and I am seeking ways to protect our unique institution which is so under threat" Michael Fabricant says. "I am well aware of the recent pub closures in Lichfield and throughout the midlands and I have been in contact with the Treasury about this. Many of my constituents work for the brewing industry and pub management companies as well as being customers of great British pubs – as am I.
"The campaign to save the British pub points out: ‘The current rate of pub closures is running at 36 per week, around 5 a day! Pub landlords are facing a fall in beer consumption, with beer sales at their lowest since the Great Depression. And, the Government already takes a third of a pint in tax. Yet, despite the economic slowdown the Government plans to further increase taxes on beer! A nine per cent beer duty increase was imposed in the 2008 Budget, and through a tax ‘escalator,’ the Treasury wants to impose above inflation tax increases on beer in each of the next three Budgets. On top of this the Chancellor has recently announced a further duty increase. This takes the total increase in beer tax to 40% over the next four years. This could well be the final nail in the coffin for many more of Britain’s much loved pubs.’
Michael says: "They go on to say their aims are to: 1. Axe plans to increase beer tax by a third; 2. Enforce existing laws, not create new ones, to deal firmly with irresponsible drinkers and premises; 3. End the irresponsible promotion of alcohol in supermarkets, pubs and elsewhere; 4. Trust responsible adults to make informed choices about what they drink, not to punish them for the actions of an irresponsible minority; and 5. Support the British pub as a vital part of social life in local communities.’"
In response, Michael has contacted Government Ministers at the Treasury and Angela Eagle MP, the Exchequer Secretary, has written to Michael saying: "We are aware of the pressures that pubs face with increasing costs and the impact of the smoking ban legislation. However, the changes in the demand for beer are the result of many factors including shifting tastes and consumer preferences. It has been suggested that additional duty should be charged on alcohol sold in supermarkets. However, due to European Union legislation, the Government is not able to give a different tax treatment to the same product. This makes it impossible for the Government to tax the sale of alcohol in one place differently to another. Alcohol duty is an important revenue stream for the Government and there are currently no plans to change what was previously announced in the Budget."
But Michael Fabricant now says: "Gordon Brown announced plans to increase alcohol duties in order to help pay for the temporary reduction in VAT. According to major retailers, this has been a disaster – it has not made any difference to retail sales at all. Instead, the tax change will add about four pence onto the cost of every pint and will raise an estimated £2.12 billion for the Treasury over the next four years making the rate of pub closures even greater.
"I believe that a much better approach would be specifically to target those drinks associated with binge drinking. Last March, the Conservative Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, proposed a revenue-neutral package of changes to alcohol taxation. This comprised tax increases on problem drinks combined with tax cuts on those which have lower alcohol content, such as beer and cider. Similar schemes have proved effective in other countries and have been backed by medical experts and alcohol charities.
"I will continue to press this alternative strategy on the Government" Michael adds.