Since first becoming an MP in 2015, I have spoken several times in Parliament to call for more support for pubs and, in the last Parliament, was Vice-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Pubs.
In February, I wrote to the then-Chancellor Sajid Javid to raise our shared concern about the tax burden on pubs, which are closing at an alarming rate. Given that pubs provide much-needed community spaces, it is unfair that they face a combination of business rates, beer duty and VAT in a way that allows supermarkets, which do not support communities in the same way, to undercut pubs on price. I asked for an extension to beer duty and a wider review of the cumulative impact of these taxes.
So how has the new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, responded?
The Government has proposed to extend the freeze on beer duty and has frozen other alcohol duties for the coming year. It also proposes to temporarily exempt pubs with a rateable value of under £51,000 from business rates, and give a discount to those rated £51,000-£100,000. Its financial support scheme for the impact of COVID-19 will also be welcomed by pubs which fear that many people will be put off from going out.
However, it is an important omission that the Government has not responded to the VAT disparity highlighted by the industry. I also remain concerned that this package of measures, which the Government is very keen to tout as ‘pub-friendly’, are only in place for the next year. This creates another cliff-edge, when what we want is long-term sustainability for our pubs.
I will continue to work with fellow MPs to raise these concerns and campaign for a long-term plan to support our pubs.