Beer and pub groups have been scrutinising election manifestos from the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.
The Liberal Democrats have said they would:
- Review the UK excise duty structure to better support whisky exports
- Replace business rates in England with a commercial landowner levy, based solely on the land value of commercial sites rather than their entire capital value
- Introduce minimum unit pricing for alcohol, taking note of the impact of the policy in Scotland
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “Any review of UK alcohol taxation must include beer — a lower-strength, British-made product.
“Beer tax is a particular burden for pubs as seven out of ten alcoholic drinks sold in them are beer, and we pay 11 times more beer duty than Spain or Germany.
“With three pubs a day closing their doors for good, cutting or freezing beer duty as part of a review of UK alcohol taxation is essential. This would answer the call of the 220,000 people who have signed the Long Live the Local petition, calling on the next Chancellor to cut beer duty, supporting local pubs and the communities they serve.
“The current business rates system is hugely unfair on pubs — they pay 2.8% of the business rates bill, despite accounting for just 0.5% of turnover. A complete overhaul of the existing system is required, but at this stage it is not clear if the Liberal Democrat’s commercial landowner levy will directly help pubs.
“The impact of minimum unit pricing (MUP) in Scotland should be carefully evaluated before a proposal is considered in England. Particularly as it has only been in place in Scotland for just over a year.”
‘The evidence for minumim unit pricing is not yet in’
SIBA chief executive, James Calder, said: “Any targeted support for the alcohol sector needs to consider the UK’s national drink, beer, and the people who make and serve it. All parties need to commit to fair and positive review of small breweries relief, and at least a freeze in all excise duty for the next Parliament.
“The evidence for MUP is not yet in, and any party should be careful of the wider impacts a policy like MUP can have on small businesses, including small brewers. We need to see more detail on how a commercial landowner levy, like that proposed by the Liberal Democrats, would impact on brewers and pubs.”
The Labour party has said it would:
- List pubs as assets of community value so community groups could buy local pubs under threat of closing
- Replace business rates with a land value tax
- Introduce four new bank holidays celebrating the four patron saints’ days
- Review the evidence on the effect of minimum unit pricing of alcohol
- Label alcoholic drinks with clear health warnings
Emma McClarkin said: “When it comes to community pubs, what is needed is investment and support. It is important that measures to bolster the rights of individual communities to purchase pubs do not act as a disincentive to invest in or operate a pub business…
“Additional bank holidays will hopefully be a boost for the pub trade, and could be done in tandem with extended hours to give a further uplift…
“As an industry, we already clearly label our products with health information, including alcohol units and ABV, as well as signposting to Drinkaware, where the full guidance on low-risk drinking can be found.”
James Calder said: “The Labour party commitment to force all producers to put health warnings on their products risks damaging small brewers. Self-regulation of the alcohol industry works, and the industry takes reducing alcohol harm seriously. But mandatory health warnings are not needed, have little evidence that they work to reduce harm, and will be hugely costly for small brewers to implement.”
‘Strengthen planning protection laws’
CAMRA chief executive, Tom Stainer, said: “CAMRA welcomes Labour’s recognition of the vital part pubs play in their local economies and communities in its manifesto pledge to list all pubs as assets of community Value.
“We would like to see all parties provide further funding, support and extended time to help communities looking to take ownership of their local pub, as has been proposed by the Conservative party.
“We’d urge all parties to go further and pledge to strengthen planning protection laws to prevent vital services such as pubs from being lost, and to encourage all local authorities to recognise the importance of pubs in their local plans and planning policies.
“CAMRA is concerned about plans outlined by the Liberal Democrats to introduce minimum unit pricing, and by Labour to introduce mandatory health labelling requirements on alcoholic products. In both cases we’d call for a robust evidence-based approach to be taken, as well as a full assessment of the potential adverse effects these policies could have on thousands of producers across the country.
“We also cautiously welcome pledges by Labour and the Liberal Democrats to review business rates. As with the Conservatives’ plan to reform the business rates system, CAMRA will be looking to make sure both Labour and Liberal Democrat proposals make sure that pubs no longer pay a disproportionate share of business rates.
“On the Lib Dem manifesto plan to review alcohol duty, this needs to ensure that beer and cider — generally lower strength and consumed responsibly in pubs — does not pay the price of duty cuts to higher-strength spirits and wine.”