There may have been some good things about the last Labour government, but their attitude to excise duty on beer was not one of them.
In 2008 the chancellor, Alastair Darling introduced the beer-duty escalator, which increased the amount of duty on a pint by 2% above inflation. A small rate of increase, you might think, but remember that this was on top of inflation and that compound interest is a powerful effect.
I remember from my schooldays, the ‘rule of 70’. Divide 70 by the annual rate of increase to find the number of years that it will roughly take for a value to double. It doesn’t take long for the effects of a small annual rise to assume big proportions and indeed the escalator resulted in a 42% tax hike between 2008-13.
The reversal of this policy was a key aim of CAMRA and our efforts culminated in a mass lobby of Parliament which was attended by around a thousand of our members who tried to persuade their MP that the time had come for the annual increases to end. George Osbourne saw the logic of our arguments and not only scrapped the escalator, but actually reduced duty over his four years in charge.
However George’s days have passed. Due to a little local difficulty last year, we have a new Chancellor at the helm and on March 8, he presents his first budget.
The arguments now for a freeze or reduction in duty are still very relevant.
The British Beer and Pub Association have created an interactive website which shows the effects of various changes to beer duty as calculated by leading economics consultancy Oxford Economics.
Take a 3p per pint rise, which is about a 1% increase on the price of a pint. It will result in drinkers being £98.1 million per year worse off, and the loss of 3,080 jobs in the UK.
Have a look at the website beerandpub.com, where you can play around with the interactive graphics and see the effect of different increases on various parts of the country, down to council and constituency level.
You can also discover some fascinating facts, such as a landlord selling 150 barrels a year pays £22,538 in tax, which is £20,680 more than his or her German counterpart.
The pub industry supports 898,352 jobs, of which 42% are filled by people under 25.
I could quote more figures, but I hope that I have made a convincing case and if you are in doubt, a bit of independent research is a good idea in these days of alternative facts.
The big question is whether Mr Hammond will agree with the analysis and reduce, or at least freeze excise duty. Under the last Chancellor, the support that came from all parties was invaluable in persuading him to reach the correct decision and hopefully the same can happen again.
Events show that it is difficult for our elected representatives to ignore the will of the people when it is clearly expressed, so everyone should contact their MP or the Chancellor and demand action.
If you are a member of CAMRA you will probably already have had a message from HQ asking you to do this, with details of how to get involved. If not, the beerandpub website as detailed above has a link that you can click which will make the process easy or if you prefer use the cutbeertax.co.uk website.