Manchester MP believes George Osborne Budget may save the ‘Great British pub’ as beer prices are cut

By Sam Ruffe & Neil Robertson

The cost of a pint will be slashed by 1p on Sunday night, as George Osborne confirmed the beer duty escalator is also set to be scrapped.

The Chancellor announced during the Budget speech that while the price of beer will fall, the price of wine and spirits will continue to rise.

The news from Westminster was welcomed with open arms by Liberal Democrat MP for Withington John Leech, who is a founding member of the All-Party Save the Pub Group.

“All the beer duty escalator achieved was to send pubs out of business and encourage people to buy cheap, discounted beer from the supermarkets,” said Mr Leech.

“I’ve lobbied the Chancellor on this issue and I’m glad he has listened, this could be something that could help to grow a struggling industry and halt the extinction of the Great British pub.”

However, Mr Leech maintained that further support needs to be given to landlords to help encourage more drinkers into their establishments.

He explained: “I have long argued that a differential between off-sale and on-sale duty is what is needed.

“This would mean that more custom would be encouraged in pubs and bars where people can drink responsibly in the controlled pub environment rather than getting “tanked up” on cheap supermarket booze.”

Chief Executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Mike Benner echoed Mr Leech’s sentiment, saying today’s decision is a huge triumph for pub campaigners across the country.

“This is a momentous day for Britain’s beer drinkers who will tonight be raising a glass to the Chancellor,” he said.

“Scrapping the beer duty escalator, combined with a 1p cut, is a massive vote of confidence in British pubs.

“This will lead to an increase in pub going and more money in the Chancellor’s coffers.”

Since the beer duty escalator was introduced by Labour in 2008, 5,800 pubs have been forced to close, while the price of beer has risen by 42%.

A mass lobby day organised by CAMRA saw 200 MPs meet constituents who showed concern over the damage the escalator has caused.

Mr Benner added: “What could have been the final nail in the coffin for our pubs has been decisively avoided by the Chancellor in a move that will spark celebration in pubs across the UK.”

The escalator was set to remain in place until 2015, with beer prices due to rise 2% above inflation each year.

Beer drinkers across Manchester have welcomed today’s news, yet many believe the small decrease will make little difference to the way they drink.

A city centre civil servant, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: “It’s positive that the price will be reduced but I don’t think the drinkers will see the benefits of it.

“The benefits will go to the licence trade, it will supplement their income.

“I think it is good that the beer duty escalator has been scrapped but it leaves big issues around supermarkets and alcohol being sold at supermarkets at very cheap prices. 

“I think the government have perhaps missed something in not putting a minimum price on alcohol.”

James Firth, 29, from Ordsall said: “I guess that its good news and it’s nice that beer will not go up anymore.

“But I don’t think it will make much difference to how people drink – it’s not really that much money is it?”

Picture courtesy of avlxyz, via Flickr, with thanks.

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