Sir Gerald supports CAMRA tax campaignBy Amy Taylor
December 27, 2012
ALE enthusiasts are celebrating after getting political backing for their campaign to remove the escalating tax on beer.
Members of Surrey Hampshire Borders branch of CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) went to London this month to successfully lobby Aldershot MP Sir Gerald Howarth.
Kevin Travers, Mike Roberts, Paul Rhoods and Vince Curtis met with Sir Gerald at his London offices to ask him to commit his support to their campaign to bring down the tax on beer, which many believe is putting unnecessary pressure on pubs.
The beer duty escalator has been in place since 2008 and automatically increases tax on beer by 2% above inflation every year. However, despite an increase of 5% at the last budget, the duty actually paid to the government rose by just 0.3% because the hike in the cost of a pint meant people are visiting their local pubs less and less, said CAMRA members.
With the list of pubs closing in Aldershot increasing, with recent victims of the recession including the Heron, Albion, Wheatsheaf and Railway Tavern, Sir Gerald agreed with the group’s argument and expressed his concern about the impact on jobs and communities.
“I have considerable sympathy for the campaign,” he said. “CAMRA has done a brilliant job in standing up for real ale and encouraging smaller breweries such as our local Hog’s Back Brewery.
“I wrote to the chancellor of the exchequer in November expressing my concern at the unsustainably high level of taxation imposed on brewers and the knock on effect this has on pubs.
“One of London’s major brewers tells me that nearly 40% of their entire turnover is taken in taxation of one form or another.
“The pub is intrinsic to the rural and city scene but we are all aware of the alarming rate of pub closures – clearly pubs which are closed pay no tax at all.
“The government must seriously consider finding ways to ensure that the future of the pub is not undermined by cut price alcohol in supermarkets.”
He told CAMRA members he would call on the government to scrap the escalator, and speak to treasury ministers outlining the damaging effect of the policy.
Kevin Travers, secretary of Surrey Hampshire Borders CAMRA, said, “It was great that Sir Gerald Howarth met with us, listened to our arguments and agreed to support our campaign.
“This tax is just so illogical and getting rid of it would be fantastic for our local pubs and drinkers alike.”
In November, the Heron in Lower Farnham Road, was boarded up while the Prince of Wales, in Ash Road, has been closed since 2010 without a new leaseholder being found.
CAMRA members have warned that both pubs are being lined up to become convenience stores, with the Co-op and Sainsbury’s taking an interest, while The Queen’s Head in Blackwater has already reopened as a Tesco.
Meanwhile McDonald’s fast food chain is interested in the historic Tumbledown Dick pub in Farnborough.