MP Greg Mulholland addresses Oireachtas
The Save the Pub APPG’s purpose is to bring together Members of the House of Commons and Lords who want to add their voice to the efforts to preserve and protect the British pub.
The group shares a belief that the British pub is an important part of the country’s history and heritage and hugely important to the communities they serve as a focus for community, social, sporting and charitable activity. It also provides a sociable and controlled drinking environment which is therefore important in encouraging responsible drinking.
The cut in beer duty in the UK resulted in a considerable boost in consumer confidence, he stated. It also supported domestic craft brewers and helped restore confidence across the pub sector.
His presentation drew comparisons between the British and Irish pubs.
“Both our nations have a proud pub tradition which plays an important role in community life and for tourism – particularly in rural areas,” he said, drawing comparisons between the British and Irish pub, “Of the 7,295 pubs in Ireland, 6,525 are based outside Dublin. Sadly, the challenges faced by the pub sector in both of our countries are also very similar, with pub closures becoming a frequent occurrence in both Britain and Ireland in recent years with a 20% reduction in pub numbers in the UK since 2000. This compares with a reduction of 11% in Ireland over the same period.”
In the UK, Greg and various campaign groups have been able to not only put an end to the beer duty escalator but to introduce three cuts in beer duty.
“The escalator was introduced in 2008 and saw tax on beer increase by 42% in a few years,” he said, “This bears a remarkable similarity to Ireland where tax increases in Budget 2013 and 2014 have led to a 44% increase in excise duty on beer, a 37% increase in excise on spirits and a 62% increase in excise on wine.
“In England the beer duty escalator proved damaging to brewers across the country and led to increases in beer prices for pub-goers. Whilst these price increases were able to be absorbed by the supermarkets, pubs were unable to do this which led to further increases in the difference between a can in the supermarket and a pint in the pub. Similarly, in Ireland, on-trade retailers were forced to pass on the full cost of excise increases.
“The end to the beer escalator and the introduction of three cuts in beer duty sent a message that politicians did actually care about pubs and their value to the nation.”
Bart Storan, Campaign Manager for Support Your Local here in Ireland, commented, “Today, Greg Mulholland made the case for an excise cut. A cut in excise would be good for jobs, good for consumers and good for the pub sector. The Support Your Local campaign is calling on Irish politicians to champion our pubs in a similar manner, by using their influence to drive a cut in alcohol excise.”
Greg Mulholland went on to speak at a roundtable discussion hosted by the ‘Support Your Local’ campaign last night on ‘The future of the Irish pub and lessons from the UK’.
Other speakers at the event included John Geraghty from Publin, Economist Tony Foley, John Duffy from Beoir, VFI President Noreen O’Sullivan and Deirdre Devitt of The Two Sisters Pub in Terenure. The discussion was MC’d by Claire Byrne.
In the UK the APPG is focused on campaigning for:
- changes to planning law to properly recognise the importance of – and to offer more protection to – pubs faced with closure. It believes that any change of use or demolition of a community pub should have to go through a process involving (a) genuine, independent community consultation and (b) an independent viability test of the pub (based on the CAMRA model)
- reforming the current ‘beer tie’ model as operated by some of the big pub companies which makes it impossible for some licensees to make a living and leads to pub closures including by making some pub unviable that would be viable if free of tie
- calling for fairer levels of beer duty, scrapping the duty escalator and pushing for a lower duty on all draught ale/or real ale, lobbying Europe to allow this
- challenging the UK government to look at supermarket beer pricing to stop below-cost selling in the off-trade and create a more level playing field between the on- and off-trade
- changing the law to outlaw the practice of restrictive covenants whereby companies are selling pubs on the basis that it is prevented from being a pub, thus denying a community a pub simply to benefit the commercial interests of the company
- government and local authorities to do more to support community pubs including via taxation and rates, based on the community value of such pubs and for less complicated regulatory and licensing systems and frameworks
- giving local communities the right to buy pubs that are planned for closure and to support the Pub is the Hub scheme
- other issues as deemed relevant by the group
- giving MPs help and guidance in support of campaigns against pub closures in their constituency.