Thank you to everyone who has got in touch about beer duty and tax on pubs. As I have said before I appreciate the importance of this issue particularly as pubs having been hit so hard by COVID-19.
I believe that pubs are a vital part of our high streets and social fabric in communities throughout the country. I have received countless emails from constituents expressing how difficult they found lockdowns precisely because their local pubs, its staff and other regulars were a really valued part of their lives. They also play an important role in our national economy. Before the coronavirus pandemic the hospitality sector was supporting 900,000 jobs, with many of those younger workers, generating £23 billion in economic value and providing £13 billion in tax revenues. Hospitality will be a key part of our national recovery but I am aware that pubs face a range of tax pressures, including beer duty, business rates and VAT. Even before the pandemic, pubs were under severe threat, with a 15% fall in their number from 2010 to 2020. Behind those figures are jobs lost and communities no longer able to gather in the same way.
As I am sure you will know beer duty was frozen at the Budget which Long Live the Local. In response to Long Live the Local’s wider proposed tax reforms for pubs, the Government has simply stated that it “keeps all taxes under review and any changes made will be announced at the next fiscal event”. After the pandemic’s unique pressures pubs need certainty so they can ensure their long-term futures.
Last year the Government published a call for evidence for a review of alcohol duties. It says this review aims to make the current system simpler, more economically rational and will have to consider how to balance various factors, such as supporting public health, protecting tax revenues and providing a fair deal for all parts of industry. I can assure you that I will continue to monitor developments on this issue and hope to see ambitious proposals that genuinely seek to provide a fair deal for everyone.
A fundamental review of the business rates system was scheduled to conclude earlier this year but has been pushed back to the Autumn. That delay means hospitality workers will be working long hours all Summer anxious and unsure of whether their jobs might be under threat. An overhaul of business rates is long overdue and must be part of a real plan to help our hospitality industry thrive. This review must not be delayed any longer than necessary and must lead to wholesale reform.
More widely, with many businesses in the hospitality sector having seen over a year of closures and lost trade, I believe it is vital that they receive proper support to help them recover from the pandemic. The Government’s failure to adopt adequate public health measures to control the virus meant the hospitality sector suffered far more than was necessary. Lessons must be learned and rather the Government needs to ensure that support going forward genuinely meets the level required. Pubs and breweries should not lose out because of the sacrifices they have made to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.