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Friday, 09 November 2012

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The duty escalator debate

Friday, 09 November 2012

Article Image 09 November 2012

So the Parliamentary debate on the duty escalator has finally taken place. Anyone who thought that this was going to lead to an immediate review of this iniquitous tax has had their illusions rudely shattered by the announcement that there are no plans to do so. But this is hardly surprising. Accountants rule at the treasury, not economists, and the diminishing returns argument has fallen on deaf ears.

The good news is that CAMRA is organising a mass rally of Parliament for the 12th December. It will be interesting to see just how many people CAMRA can get down to this. Whilst I don’t think they will be able to mobilise 250,000 people – which was the number who attended a mass rally in 1908 to protest against the Liberal Government’s plans to nationalise pubs – I do hope that we can achieve a turnout that is in the thousands. CAMRA is a grass roots organisation and its members are passionate about beer and about this issue.

The Government is still in thrall to the health lobby in relation to all things alcohol, and sin taxes make them look moral as well as fiscally responsible. A successful mass protest that gets the red top newspapers on side would help us take back cultural ownership of the alcohol issue from medical temperance. As the mass protests of 1855 over Sunday opening for pubs, and the 1908 demonstration against their nationalisation prove, it is only when we involve the drinker in the debate about alcohol that government and media begin to trim their position.

To achieve a result in respect of the duty escalator, and in the campaign to reduce VAT to 5% in pubs, we have to widen the debate. This is about tax equality; it is about defending the right to drink in a convivial public space; and it is about the defence of a venerable British institution – the pub.

See you on the 12th December!