Plea for beer

Posted: 23 February 2012

A letter to the editor of The Times from Jonathan Neame - published 23rd February 2012

Sir, Following Alastair Campbell’s thought-provoking Panorama programme, Britain’s Hidden Alcoholics, and your own recent coverage, one thing is clear. Neither minimum pricing of alcohol nor higher excise duty, as advocated by many, will deter the small minority of better-off drinkers who drink to dangerous excess.

What is clear is that the path to a healthier society and less alcohol abuse lies in policies that actively support beer (as the drink with the least alcohol) and pubs (a controlled drinking environment).

However, beer tax has increased by 52 per cent since 2004 for a miserable 10 per cent increase in revenue. This has resulted in 8,000 pubs closing, investment falling to one third that in 2000 and substantial job losses - this in a sector in which 50 per cent of employees are under 25 and where a huge numbers of jobs could be created quickly in a more benign environment.

While beer and pubs have been actively undermined, vodka and cider have become cheaper per unit of alcohol - and hospital admissions have increased substantially as a result of the relative attractions of staying at home to drink or "pre-loading" before going out. 

Hopefully, the Prime Minister will announce an alcohol strategy that takes us back to an era of controlled drinking in pubs. This is in the social, cultural, health and economic interests of this country.

He can start by cutting the tax on beer in the next budget.

JONATHAN NEAME

Chief Executive, Shepherd Neame, Faversham, Kent