BURTON’S MP has challenged the Prime Minister to take the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a pint and order him to reduce the amount of tax levied on beer.
Parliamentary beer group chairman Andrew Griffiths, speaking during yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, said: “Will he (David Cameron) take the Chancellor (George Osborne) for a pint, tell him to scrap the beer duty escalator and do something for British pubs and British publicans?”
Mr Cameron said it was ‘very important’ that the Government supported pubs.
The beer duty escalator sees the tax on a pint increase by two per cent every year plus the rate of inflation.
Britons currently pay nine times more beer duty than the Spanish, 10 times more than the Italians and 13 times more than the Germans. Critics say this has cost jobs in British pubs and breweries.
There are currently 18 pubs closing every week in this country.
The Prime Minister said in his reply to Mr Griffiths: “I think it’s very important that we actually also try to support the pub trade in our country and the Government has plans for that as well.”
The Treasury has previously ruled out cancelling the beer duty escalator, saying such a move would cost £105 million over the next two years.
But Mr Griffiths told the Mail: “We all recognise the Prime Minister couldn’t say anything ahead of the imminent Budget statement, but my question to him in the House of Commons was part of a long-running campaign to keep pressure on the Treasury to scrap the beer duty escalator.”
The escalator was introduced by the Labour administration in 2008 and continued by the coalition.
Since then 6,000 pubs have closed and beer duty has surged by 42 per cent — an amount dubbed ‘crippling’ by Conservative Mr Griffiths.
The brewing and pub industry says 5,000 jobs would be saved within 12 months if the escalator was abolished.
Jon Wheale, the Labour Party’s candidate for Burton, attacked Mr Griffiths following his question in the Commons: “I stand with all the people in Burton who remember and want to see again a flourishing pub and brewing industry in the town. Trying but failing to get the Tory-led government to support pubs and brewing simply isn’t good enough.”
But Mr Griffiths, who has previously accused Labour of ‘playing politics’ with the issue, said he was ‘optimistic’ the escalator would be scrapped in the Budget in March.