Beer Duty and Pubs: Budget 2020

Thank you for contacting me about support for pubs and the proposal to cut beer duty.

Pubs play a crucial role in the social and economic life of our nation, as well in helping to promote responsible drinking, which is why I am encouraged by the support which has been made available to pubs and our manifesto commitment to cut taxes further for small businesses.

Through the Asset of Community Value scheme, communities can list facilities of local importance, including pubs. This means that if a pub owner wishes to sell up, the community has six months to come up with a plan and funding in order to try to save it. I am glad that there are now around 2,000 pubs across England listed as assets of community value.

A freeze on beer, cider, and spirit duties was announced last year, a decision which I welcome. The Spring Budget 2017 also provided a £1,000 discount on business rates bills in 2017 for pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 – 90 per cent of pubs in England – and I was pleased to see this extended in the Autumn Budget 2017 for a further year, through to March 2019.

You may be interested to know that a one-third discount to business rates for pubs and bars with rateable values below £51,000 was introduced in 2018 and has now been increased to a 50 per cent discount for 2020-21. On top of this, as many as 18,000 pubs are expected to benefit from the new Pubs Relief set to be introduced this April, which will take £1,000 off the business rates bills of qualifying small pubs.

A fundamental review of business rates was conducted in 2016, after which the Government decided to keep business rates as a property tax. While I understand frustrations with the current system, the review found no consensus among stakeholders on an alternative base for the tax. Respondents to the review also agreed that property based taxes were easy to collect, difficult to avoid, and relatively stable compared to other taxes.

I do endeavour to raise constituents' concerns and ideas with Ministers including the proposal you raise of a cut to beer duty. I know that the Chancellor will consider all such proposals carefully: of course, as you will appreciate, he needs to balance the options available for tax and duty cuts with the needs of public services and the requirements of the economy as a whole. 

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Craig Whittaker MP

February 2020