John calls on Chancellor to freeze beer tax

Local MP John Healey has joined calls for a freeze in beer duty in the March Budget by sending a special ‘message in a barrel’ to the Chancellor.

The hand-crafted oak barrel, an iconic symbol of Britain’s world-renowned brewing and pub industry, is a reminder of how important brewing and pubs are to South Yorkshire, the MP says.

The industry employs more than 1,300 people in Wentworth & Dearne and it adds £22m to the local economy.

The barrel, with it calls for a freeze in beer duty, was delivered to the Treasury by MPs and representatives of the British Beer & Pub Association, CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) and SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers).

Beer duty has risen by an unprecedented 42 per cent since March 2008, yet the Chancellor plans a further increase in the Budget on 20 March. The result of the controversial policy has been falling beer sales and pub closures in recent years.

Mr Healey, a former Treasury and pubs minister, wrote on his postcard: “I sent you the first 2013 Budget submission on Budget Day 2012 … my message now on the eve of your Budget is the same.

“Beer is a great British industry and tradition; the temporary beer duty escalator was set to end last year and is now doing great damage to our pubs and brewers. Every year you extend the escalator makes it harder for the industry to recover.

“British beer lovers – like me – are also losing out from higher prices and company failures.

“As Chancellor, you should now be especially worried by the beer tax take going down this year, despite the big hike in beer tax rates in your last Budget.

“Change direction; axe the escalator; and for once do something that people will welcome in your Budget on 20 March.”

Brigid Simmonds Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, which organised the event, added:

“Beer tax hikes are not raising more revenues for the Government, and with a duty freeze we can create many more local jobs.”

The BBPA’s barrel was specially made for the beer tax campaign by Theakston’s, the legendary North Yorkshire brewer based in the Dales, in the market town of Masham. The company brews many fine ales, such as Old Peculier, one of the country’s most well-known and loved.

The barrel was made from finest oak by Theakston’s cooper, Jonathan Manby. Jonathan is the last apprenticed craft cooper in England and has been cooper at Theakston’s for 19 years, after an apprenticeship lasting four years. This nine gallon barrel is known as a ‘firkin’.