At 8.40 pm on 2nd December, I took up my position just outside the Commons Chamber. It has become something of a tradition for me to be first in the queue to table Early Day Motions when the doors open at 10am the following morning.
Having queued for 13 hours during the night, I was delighted to table ten EDMs that morning. Three months on, by far the most popular among fellow MPs has been the one supporting the ‘Axe the Beer Tax – Save the Pub’ campaign. It has tapped into a huge well of concern over the fate of much-loved local pubs, which are closing at unprecedented rates, up and down the country.
A majority of Lib Dem MPs have signed, but the support is cross-party, with 74 Labour and 26 Tories backing the campaign. It is the 7th most popular EDM out of almost 1,000 tabled.
As the EDM says, five pubs are closing every day, with beer sales at their lowest in 40 years. As well as taking the heart out of many communities, this is terrible news for jobs, as the pub trade employs 650,000 people in every part of the UK. Yet the Government plans ever more punitive tax rises on the sector, with an ‘escalator’ on beer duty due to be introduced in the Budget. This will send more pubs to the wall.
That’s why I have supported the aims of the ‘Axe the Beer Tax- Save the Pub’ campaign. Already, 40,000 have joined the campaign on the website at www.axethebeertax.com, or on Facebook. Over 13,000 have lobbied their MP via the site’s interactive tool, and I would urge you to do the same.
There is a key meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group in Parliament on Wednesday, where five Government Ministers are expected to attend. We need to show them the strength of feeling over pub closures, just as we did over Post Offices!