The industry “shouldn’t take its foot off the pedal” in lobbying the Government despite the very positive news in the Budget, according to Jonathan Neame, chairman of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) and chief executive of Shepherd Neame.
Speaking to M&C Report, Neame said the 1p-per-pint beer duty cut announced yesterday is evidence that beer is being “singled out as having a different role in society because of its very vital role of keeping pubs alive”.
Neame said the industry’s campaign has been about reducing the whole tax burden on pubs. “With the BBPA, I’ve always seen this as a journey. We’re moving in the right direction, but there’s a bigger debate about rates now and there’s also the higher price row on VAT.
“It remains the fact that all hospitality and tourism is still over-taxed, despite this welcome news.
“So we should never take our foot off the pedal.
“There’s still a long way to go to reinforce the reputation of the sector, not only with the jobs and the investment [argument], but the fact we are a responsible sector.
“But we’ve come a long, long way. Let’s celebrate for once that the industry has really clearly articulated the importance of our sector.”
He said even the health campaigners are “finessing their judgement” on beer in the run up to the Budget announcement. “They were not calling for an increase in tax on beer. They would like to see pubs thrive. That’s a significant move forward, to separate beer from all alcohol and to say they would like to see pubs in our communities thrive.
“It’s a very different message again from, ‘all alcohol is alcohol, treat it all the same, treat it like tobacco’; the kind of argument of three to five years ago.”
Away from alcohol duty, Neame said the proposed £7bn cut in energy bills for high-energy manufacturers could be “good news” for brewers.
He said that raising the personal tax allowance from £10,000 to £10,500 represents a “continued good move in that direction”, and he commended plans to simplify taxes.
“I think is genuinely is a good Budget for business, not just for our sector,” Neame stated.
“There are consistent pro-business messages coming out now. There’s been a particularly negative anti-business culture coming out in the last couple of years, which is thoroughly unhelpful. This is a strong statement in favour of business.”