City publicans given lifeline after MPs back review of escalator

Norwich publicans have been given a lifeline in their struggle for survival, after MPs unanimously backed a call for the government to review the controversial 'beer duty escalator', which results in beer duty increasing by 2pc above inflation each year.

During a debate in parliament yesterday, the economic secretary Sajid Javid claimed that if the escalator was axed the Treasury would need to find another �35m in taxes annually or cut spending.

But MPs backed the call from publicans and groups such as Camra, and the government will now conduct a thorough review of the economic and social impact of the escalator, which is due to last until 2014/15 and has been blamed for plummeting beer sales as 16 pubs a week close.

Earlier this week, city publicans called for MPs to back the industry ahead of the debate, and many landlords watched proceedings on TV.

Kevin Hopkins, who runs two Norwich pubs – The Rose in Queens Road and Ketts Tavern in Ketts Hill – said: 'It was positive to see 20 speakers sticking up for pubs.

'The escalator needs to be scrapped and hopefully that will be the decision the government reaches, before next year's budget.

'It was an interesting debate and they also came up with some good suggestions – the possibility of a different rate of duty on draft beer, which would help pubs above supermarkets.

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'There was also a lot of talk about bringing in minimum pricing of alcohol in supermarkets, which should happen soon.'

He said he was disappointed the two Norwich MPs could not attend the debate.

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said earlier this week that she could not take part in the debate in the House, as she had another commitment in Norwich, while Simon Wright, the Norwich South MP, said before the debate that it would be difficult to assess the impact of beer duty on the pub industry.

The request for the debate was made by MP Andrew Griffiths, after an online petition reached 100,000 signatures.

Mr Griffiths, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on beer, outlined the case for scrapping the escalator, claiming it 'would save thousands of jobs in the first year alone and stop the closure of hundreds of pubs in all of our communities'.

He added: 'This is a huge opportunity to bring balance and fairness into the duty system and to support our pubs and breweries.'

MPs heard the duty rose by a 'crippling' 42pc since 2008, with sales plunging 16pc – the equivalent of 1.5 billion pints – depriving the Treasury of tax from lost sales.

The Evening News has been urging people to return to pubs in our Love your Local campaign.

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