Page last updated at 00:07 GMT, Thursday, 26 November 2009

Campaign to cut beer tax and save pubs launched

Drinking a pint
The groups are launching a manifesto in Westminster on Thursday

Drinkers, publicans and politicians are being urged to join a campaign to stop British pubs from closing.

The British Beer and Pub Association and the Society of Independent Brewers have launched the campaign as 50 pubs a week are currently closing.

The groups' campaign, "I'm backing the pub", is calling on the government to cut the tax on beer.

It comes as a survey suggests 80% of people think the pub is an important symbol of the British way of life.

The groups are launching their manifesto, called Life And Soul Of British Communities, in Westminster on Thursday night.

They want the government to reverse the 8% increase in duty on beer which was imposed at the time of the VAT cut last January when VAT returns to its 17.5% rate on 1 January 2010.

They also want plans to increase duty by 2% above inflation in the next budget to be scrapped.

'Call for action'

The ComRes poll of a thousand adults found 71% of people think more needs to be done to support and promote the British pub, while 77% think they make a valuable contribution to the economy.

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the BBPA, said there was compelling public consensus that the pub was a vital part of the community and the character of Britain.

Reducing duty on a low strength drink like beer would be a good start in helping to promote a unique British product
Julian Grocock
Siba chief executive

She said: "This is coupled with deep concern at the record number of pub closures we are witnessing today and a resounding call for action to support the British pub.

"It is time for a concerted effort by government, industry and all those who value the pub to work together to adopt and implement policies to promote the great British pub."

Julian Grocock, chief executive of Siba, said: "Pubs are an integral part of Britain's rich culture, our national heritage, and the life of our communities.

"Reducing duty on a low strength drink like beer would be a good start in helping to promote a unique British product, supporting a unique British institution, and launching an effective strategy to encourage responsible drinking in controlled and convivial surroundings."

But the GMB union said the problem did not lie with the government but with pub companies themselves.

Paul Maloney, the union's national officer for tied pub tenants, said: "This BBPA charter for pubs totally ignores the trade dispute over the overcharging of tenants by the pubcos which is causing all the damage and injustice in the sector.

"GMB is organising an industrial action ballot of the tied tenants for an official dispute to secure lower wholesale prices."

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