Reply from Ed Vaizey re: Axe the Beer Tax campaign

I’m impressed – Ed Vaizey MP has replied to my Axe the Beer tax email already! Here’s my original email (auto generated by the site), his reply and my response:

Dear Edward Vaizey,

I am writing to you to make sure you are aware of a campaign to save the
British pub. As my MP, I want you to sign up to the campaign to show
your support for pubs up and down the country. I would also ask that you
write to the Chancellor requesting that he stops the planned rises in
beer tax which could ruin the brewing industry and sign up to EDM 10
“Campaign to save the British pub”.

This is the last time to be considering tax hikes. The current rate of
pub closures is running at 39 per week, nearly 6 a day! Pub landlords
are facing a fall in beer consumption, with beer sales at their lowest
since the Great Depression. And, the Government already takes a third of
a pint in tax.

Yet, despite the economic slowdown the Government plans to further
increase taxes on beer! A nine per cent beer duty increase was imposed
in the 2008 Budget, and through a tax ‘escalator,’ the Treasury wants to
impose above inflation tax increases on beer in each of the next three
Budgets. On top of this the Chancellor has recently announced a further
duty increase. This takes the total increase in beer tax to 40% over the
next four years.

This could well be the final nail in the coffin for many more of
Britain’s much loved pubs.

The Axe The Beer Tax campaign has five demands:

1. Axe plans to increase beer tax by a third 2. Enforce existing laws,
not create new ones, to deal firmly with irresponsible drinkers and
premises 3. To end the irresponsible promotion of alcohol in
supermarkets, pubs and elsewhere 4. To trust responsible adults to make
informed choices about what they drink, not to punish them for the
actions of an irresponsible minority 5. To support the British pub as a
vital part of social life in local communities

I hope you will support these demands. To do so, please visit the
campaign website www.axethebeertax.com to register your support and help
us save the Great British Pub.

Yours sincerely,

Alison Neale


Dear Alison Neale,

Thank you for your recent correspondence about public houses and the
difficulties faced by pubs.

I agree that British pubs are an important part of our communities and
our heritage. A survey carried out by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)
found that 84 per cent of people feel that a pub is as essential to
village life as a shop or post office. Pubs are, however, under
extraordinary pressure at the moment, and the most recent figures
suggest that six pubs close every day.

Instead of looking at what can be done to save traditional British pubs,
the Government has added to their problems by increasing taxes and
regulation. You may be aware that a third of the price of every pint
goes to the Chancellor in beer tax, a figure that ministers plan to
increase even further. This penalises responsible drinkers and
landlords, whilst doing little to tackle the dangerous binge drinking
culture that is developing in our towns and cities.

Conservatives are committed to helping the pub industry through this
difficult time, and have launched a campaign entitled ‘Save the Great
British Pub’. We are urging communities to get behind us by signing an
online petition to show how much we all value our local pubs. For more
information on this, visit www.conservatives.com.

Our campaign also calls on the Government to save pubs and safeguard
jobs by cutting tax on low alcohol beer and cider, paid for by
increasing tax on problem drinks (principally high strength ciders and
alcopops). This would target binge drinkers, but ensure that responsible
drinkers and traditional pubs are not penalised.

I believe that the Conservative approach is a better way to tackle
problem drinking and offers greater support to traditional British pubs.
It is for these reasons that I do not feel able to sign Early Day Motion
10.

I also understand your concern about the operation of ‘pubcos’. A
number of organisations, including the Federation of Small Businesses,
accuse them of charging high rents and high stock prices through
contractual ‘beer ties’. In contrast, the pubcos argue that they offer
their tenants a number of benefits, chief of which are lower rental
rates than those paid by tenants renting free houses.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigated this issue in 2002 but did
not recommend remedial action. It is my belief that, as an independent
body, the OFT is best placed to deal with such issues. On this basis, I
am unable to sign EDM 715.

We propose enforcing existing laws to deal firmly with irresponsible
drinkers and premises, trusting adults to make informed choices instead
of punishing them for the actions of an irresponsible minority and
making clear that we support the role of pubs in local communities.

Thank you once again for writing to me.

Yours sincerely,

Ed Vaizey
Shadow Minister for Culture and MP for Wantage and Didcot

Thanks for your reply. I knew you were on board already because I’ve had a sneak read of your April column in Community Times magazine ๐Ÿ˜‰ but thought it was worth contacting you anyway.l It’s a shame you’re not willing to sign up to EDM 10 though – this is an issue that would benefit from having support from all parties, rather than fragmented support from each party individually!

Glad to hear you are in support in principle though
Alison

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