The beer and pub industry is extremely important to the UK. Indeed, it is an area I know very well having been a licensee for a hotel and two bars prior to becoming your MP in 2010.
The pub sector in Scotland supports 60,000 jobs and the brewing and pub industries contribute around £1.7 billion to the Scottish economy every year. In addition, around 30 million adults across the UK visit the pub every month, demonstrating that the British pub is at the heart of our communities. I also appreciate that pubs continue to be under severe threat, and I agree that we must do what we can to support them.
At the 2018 Budget, the Chancellor confirmed that duty rates on beer, cider and spirits will remain frozen. I know that this announcement has been welcomed by many stakeholders in the pub sector, including the Campaign for Real Ale and Long Live the Local.
Beer duty is reserved to Westminster, but business rates are devolved in Scotland and the Scottish Government announced in February 2017 a relief scheme that caps increases for hotels, pubs, cafes and restaurants at 12.5%. This cap was later extended until 2022.
While I welcome this cap for providing some much-needed relief, I am aware that many businesses are still struggling. I therefore believe that practical action must be taken immediately so that businesses are able to benefit fully from the cap.
It is vital that we secure fairness for Scotland’s publicans, greater choice for pub customers and that we protect and create jobs in Scotland’s pub and brewing industries. That is why I support the efforts of my colleague Neil Bibby MSP in the Scottish Parliament in pressing for tied pub reform in Scotland. His proposed Pubs Code Bill would create a statutory Pubs Code to regulate the relationship between tied pub tenants and their pub-owning landlords – and an independent Adjudicator to enforce the code.
This would bring the rights of tied pub tenants in Scotland in line with their English and Welsh counterparts, with restrictions eased on the range of drinks they can stock. I understand there was overwhelming support for tied pub reform during the Bill’s consultation. I assure you I will follow its progress closely.
The Chancellor will next set out key UK tax plans at the 2019 Budget this autumn. I think it would be sensible to look at the whole framework for alcohol duties and I have written asking him to look at this, as well as urge him to cut beer duty at the next budget. You can see his response below:
I agree that pubs are at the heart of the UK’s communities and play an important role in our national economy. I will continue to press both the UK and Scottish Governments on this important issue at every possible opportunity.