Wiltshire MP enters fray over beer hike

This Is Wiltshire: James Gray James Gray

Pubs and breweries in Wiltshire have a new champion in North Wiltshire MP James Gray who is calling on the Chancellor of the Excheq-uer to scrap plans for a five per cent hike in beer duty.

Mr Gray has signed a House of Commons motion – Early Day Motion 2785 – supporting pleas from industry and consumer groups that the beer duty escalator is abandoned in the upcoming Budget.

The beer industry and pub sector supports almost a million jobs in the UK and 46 per cent of those in the sector are between 16 and 24 years old, the most vulnerable group in the current fall in employment figures.

In his North Wiltshire constituency alone the beer and pub sector sustains 888 jobs, 195 of them in the 16-24 age group, adding £27.7million to the local economy.

Mr Gray said: “These figures show how important the brewing and pub sector is to North Wiltshire. I hope the Chancellor will take action to protect these jobs by scrapping the beer duty escalator.

Paul Sullivan, sales and marketing director for Devizes brewers Wadworth & Co, said he was delighted by Mr Gray’s stand.

He said: “We thoroughly support Mr Gray. The impact on the pub trade will be dramatic – a lot more than on supermarkets.

“Those who saw the recent Alastair Campbell Panorama programme on TV will have seen the hidden dangers of home drinking as opposed to having a relaxing pint in a pub.

“The Treasury seems to be hell-bent on putting us out of business and I hope all MPs will support Mr Gray’s stand.”

One of those who will not be signing the Early Day Motion is Devizes MP Claire Perry, who, as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, is not allowed to vote against her own Government.

But she said: “I can’t sign EDMs as a PPS but, as a member of the All Party Beer and Save the Pub group with Wadworths as a key local employer, I have lobbied the Treasury hard over this issue and also over the discrepancy between cider and beer duty.

“I’m off to a CAMRA event tonight (Tuesday) to discuss further and am currently reading the info on how to get our local beers featured in the House of Commons bar.”

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