The boss of UK's oldest brewery has lobbied MPs on behalf of the pub industry for a freeze in beer duty in next year's Budget.
Neame told the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group that, in the pub trade last year, beer volumes were down by 8% and 50 pubs a month were closing in the UK because "products like spirits have had very favourable tax in the past few years".
The chief executive argued that a tax freeze on beer would encourage drinkers back into the controlled environment of the pub, while continued hikes in prices would only serve to send customers increasingly to cheaper but unregulated supermarkets and off licences or cheaper, stronger alternatives.
Neame told Caterer: "What the current taxation system is doing is stimulating the consumption of high volume alcohol such as spirits] rather than lower strength beer.
"While people are drinking more wine, cider and spirits, it is still beer that is the life blood of the pub and the reason that people go there. What we have seen with the smoking ban's introduction is increased pressure on the market and a shift towards people drinking at home. The problem is social, economic and cultural."
By Christopher Walton
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