Call to freeze beer duty as pubs ‘good for health’
DUTY on beer should be frozen... because trips to the pub make you happier and healthier, an MP has claimed.
Researchers suggested the link between beer drinking and health in a report which was seized upon by Dudley South MP Mike Wood this week.
But Conservative MP Mr Wood told ministers that high rates of duty was turning people away from their local.
Leading a Commons debate, he said: “People who drink in moderation in a pub are more likely to be healthier and register higher levels of happiness than people who do not drink at all. They are also likely to be better fed, with almost one billion pub meals sold annually.”
Mr Wood added: “Research at Oxford University by Professor Robin Dunbar concluded that pubs play exactly that kind of vital role in tackling social isolation and contributing to wellbeing. People with a local are likely to be better off financially, physically and socially. They are likely to have a wider circle of friends. In a week when researchers have shown again the clear link between strength of social networks and resilience to conditions such as dementia, the social value... could not be more important.”
But higher beer duty put up the price of a drink and stopped people going to the pub, he said, adding: “There has been a suggestion that duty changes have little or no impact on beer sales in pubs. That is simply not true and is not consistent with the available evidence.”
Mr Wood called on the Chancellor to freeze beer duty in the Budget later this month, saying: “I have no doubt that if the current Chancellor freezes beer duty, the whole Treasury team would be carried shoulder high across Whitehall.”
And he pointed out that the beer industry was a major employer.
He said: “If the Midlands is the engine of the British economy, beer is surely the fuel that helps to power that engine, and like all fuel, it needs to be well looked after.
“My Dudley South constituency is home to four brewers – Bathams, Black Country Ales, Ma Pardoes and the Pig Iron brewery – and no fewer than 75 pubs.”
He added: “The UK now has more than 2,000 breweries, producing 25 million barrels of beer a year. With 923 million pints exported to 110 different countries, beer is the third largest food and drink export sector in the UK and it is worth £550 million to the UK economy.
“In my constituency alone, the sector accounts for 1,156 jobs, of which 313 are held by under-25s. It also contributes more than £37 million to our local economy.”
Responding, Treasury Minister Andrew Jones said: “The government proceeded to cut beer duty in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Budgets, before freezing it in 2016. It is worth noting that, as has been the government’s policy since 2013, the public finances assume that alcohol duties will rise with the retail prices index each year.
“That means that there is a cost. If we choose to cut or freeze duties, there is an impact on the amount of money taken into our Treasury, which affects other areas of public expenditure or perhaps means that we have to seek to raise tax elsewhere.”
> Pub drinkers are healthier and happier, a new report has claimed. Inset: Dudley South MP Mike Wood