Brexit could help pubs compete with supermarket, MP claims

Brexit offers the Chancellor a chance to help pubs better compete with supermarkets, MPs have heard.

Thursday, 28th March 2019, 3:02 pm
Updated Friday, 29th March 2019, 12:48 pm
Nigel Farrage, in a pub

Conservative Mike Wood (Dudley South) said the UK will be able to "take back control" of its excise duty regime, which would allow Philip Hammond to look at how he taxes beer in pubs and elsewhere.

Mr Wood added measures to help pubs thrive could also be considered, including seeking to redress the "competitive disadvantage" they have with supermarkets.

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Nigel Farrage, in a pub

There were also calls to cut taxes and beer duty for pubs and breweries. Labour MP Ruth Smeeth (Stoke-on-Trent North) said corporations like Amazon and eBay pay relatively little when compared to what is paid by small brewers and village pubs.

Opening a Commons debate, Mr Wood said: "Nationally, the sector adds nearly £23 billion to the UK economy and contributes almost £13 billion in taxation to the Treasury.

"Some of us would argue that's a little bit disproportionate.

"One in three pounds spent in pubs goes straight into Treasury coffers, with an average for every pub in the country of £140,000 being raised for the taxman every year."

He welcomed Mr Hammond's announcement of a review of small brewers relief, adding there is a general agreement from MPs of all parties that beer duty is "already high" and increases need to be avoided.

Mr Wood said the rate of pub closures has slowed, although he raised concerns over the "disturbing" rate.

He later told the debate: "As Camra has made clear, one of the opportunities as we leave the European Union... is we are able to take back control of our excise duty regime.

"So, this gives the Chancellor the opportunity to look afresh at how we tax beer in pubs in particular, how we can use fiscal measures to help pubs that thrive, to support responsible drinking and to redress the imbalance, the competitive disadvantage, that our community pubs are against - particularly supermarkets that are able to stack them high, sell them below cost and use them as a loss-leader."

Conservative Bob Stewart (Beckenham) later raised the importance of visiting pubs to ensure they are kept "alive" in communities across the country.

After Labour's Ms Smeeth referenced the importance of pubs in helping with loneliness, Mr Stewart said: "I was stirred into action by the words used by my good friend (Ms Smeeth), who used the words 'older gentleman' and I qualify - but I am not lonely.

"I want to say one thing - the way we keep our pubs alive in our communities is for people to visit the pubs, and if we get more people going to pubs, then they will live longer and I think that's very important - and that, by the way, includes me."

Ms Smeeth replied: "I think a pint of Steerage from the Titanic Brewery will definitely help you live longer."

Ms Smeeth added: "Amazon UK paid £4.5 million in corporation tax last year. Black Sheep Brewery chaired by the wonderful Andy Slee, a constituent in Stoke-on-Trent, paid £8 million in beer duty.

"Amazon UK has a turnover of £1.98 billion. Black Sheep Brewery has a turnover of £19 million. There is an issue here. In 2016 eBay UK paid £1.6 billion in corporation tax. Titanic Brewery paid 25% of their turnover to HMRC. That's £2 million."