Page last updated at 00:50 GMT, Monday, 2 March 2009

Beer campaigners oppose tax rise

Man drinking pint of beer
The duty on beer increased by 18% in last year's budget

Pub experts have urged the government to scrap a rise in beer tax in the next Budget because of the recession.

The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) and the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) have said an above-inflation rise would be wrong.

Camra chief executive Mike Benner said: "It is time for the government to think again in order to save the great British pub."

MPs are expected to demand more support for pubs from ministers this week.

'Deeply concerned'

The All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group has organised a meeting on Wednesday when members are expected to put pressure on the government to axe a planned rise.

Rob Hayward, the chief executive of the BBPA, said: "The British beer and pub industry supports 650,000 jobs and makes a vital contribution to the British economy. Yet it has been hit by a succession of tax increases alongside more and more regulation."

Economic circumstances have changed beyond recognition
Mike Benner
Camra chief executive

He said nearly six pubs a day were closing and thousands of jobs were being lost.

A recent poll found 70% of people questioned thought above-inflation rises on duty would be "unjustified".

Mr Hayward added: "Overwhelmingly, the public agrees that given the present economic circumstances the government would be wrong to continue with its plans to increase beer tax further in this April's Budget.

"The British public is deeply concerned about the decline of local communities and the rapid closure of pubs is an important part of that."

In January the BBPA announced a record fall in UK beer sales in the last quarter of 2008, blaming it partly on last year's 18% rise in duty.

'Gaining momentum'

More than 25,000 people have joined the "Axe the Beer Tax, Save the Pub" campaign, which was launched by the BBPA and Camra last November.

A Parliamentary motion calling on the government to axe plans to increase this year's rise in duty and to do more to support local pubs has been signed by 155 MPs.

Camra chief executive Mike Benner said: "Our campaign has been gaining momentum day-by-day.

"This time last year, the government announced its plans to increase beer tax but the economic circumstances have changed beyond recognition in that time."

ComRes interviewed 1,004 British adults by telephone between February 20 and 22 for the poll.

More than six in 10 of those questioned said the pub was an important element of local communities and three quarters felt the government did not do enough to support them.

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