Page last updated at 20:15 GMT, Monday, 28 July 2008 21:15 UK

Beer sales 'lowest since 1930s'

Beer drinker
UK drinkers have increasingly drunk wine and cider as well as beer

Beer sales in pubs are "at their lowest level since the Great Depression", one of the country's leading pub representative groups has said.

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said beer sales in pubs were down 10.6% compared with the same quarter last year.

It said the data referred to more than 90% of the types of ale and lager sold in the UK, including foreign brands.

An ongoing decline has been steepened by tightened spending, the group said.

Tax blamed

Rob Hayward, chief executive of the association, said: "Beer sales in pubs are now at their lowest level since the Great Depression of the 1930s - down seven million pints a day from the height of the market in 1979."

The BBPA represents more than half of the UK's 58,000 pubs.

Their spokesman said beer sales had seen a general decline since 1979, as consumers have increasingly spread their drinking between wines, spirits and ciders.

But he said there had been a marked slump over the past 12 to 18 months with faltering consumer spending, high taxation, the smoking ban and competition from cheap supermarket alcohol.

Brewing is a major industry, beer our national drink and pubs a treasured part of our national culture
Rob Hayward

BBPA chief executive

The association said there were 1,400 pub closures last year, compared with 200 the year before.

It said the fall in ale and lager sales, along with the overall faltering economy, had been a significant contributory factor.

Mr Hayward also criticised the government's approach to taxing the brewing industry.

He said: "Beer sales are on the slide and the tax increase in the Budget has made it worse.

"This is hitting Britain's brewers and pubs hard. It's also creating a large hole in the chancellor's pocket with the Treasury's tax take also down."

'Cash cow'

He said: "We need a change of approach from the government. Brewing is a major industry, beer our national drink and pubs a treasured part of our national culture."

Earlier, the BBPA confirmed that in June it had withdrawn its voluntary code banning alcohol promotions that encourage irresponsible drinking, such as two-for-one offers.

A government memo had warned of a possible conflict between the voluntary code and European laws, it says.

However the Department for Business and Enterprise, which circulated the memo, said it was intended for ministers and it did not think the BBPA's code was likely to break competition rules.

The Association of Chief Police Officers said more needed to be done by the drinks industry to curb excessive and dangerous drinking.

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