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Soap star and comedian join Axe the Tax campaign

Comedian Al Murray and soap star Adele Silva have added to calls to Alistair Darling not to increase the Beer Tax any further in this week’s budget, joining with key industry figures and MPs in calling on the Chancellor to help save the British pub.

The pair showed their support for the pub sector at an Axe the Beer Tax – Save the Pub event this morning at the Red Lion pub in Westminster, just yards from the Treasury offices.

A cross party delegation of MPs then presented a signed giant postcard to No.10 Downing Street to protest at the Government’s plans to increase Beer Tax again.

Murray, who found fame through the comedy stylings of his Pub Landlord alter-ego, said: “One third of a pint is taxed, so it’s not until you’re nearly halfway through your pint that you stop drinking for the government and start drinking for yourself.

“All the pubs are asking for is a level playing field: the government will bail out the banks, but will they bail out the boozers? It’s time to axe the tax.”

Silva, who plats the role of Kelly Windsor in the ITV soap Emmerdale, was brought up in a south London pub and was happy to lend her support to the campaign by pulling pints at the Red Lion for campaigners and MPs.

"My Mum and Dad ran pubs in south London when I was growing up, so I know just how important they are to local communities,” she said.

“We need to do everything we can to save the Great British pub and putting up tax again is not the right way of going about it.”

The campaign – jointly sponsored by the Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) and Camra, the Campaign for Real Ale – has won 70,000 supporters since it was launched late last year.

In 2008, the Government increased Beer Tax by 18% and Mr Darling plans to increase it further by 2% above the rate of inflation for the next four years starting on Wednesday.

According to the campaign, more than 2,000 pubs have shut down following last year’s budget, resulting in more than 20,000 job losses. Pubs are currently closing at a record rate of 39 a week, almost 6 every day.

Independent research by Oxford Economics forecasts that a further 60,000 jobs in the beer and pub sector are at risk over the next five years if the Government’s tax escalator plans go ahead. 
In recent surveys by independent pollsters ComRes, 70% of the public and 59% of all MPs – including 41% of Labour backbenchers – opposed increases in Beer Tax in the current economic conditions. 90% of people believe that the Chancellor should be seeking to reduce or freeze taxes in this week’s budget.

Speaking at the Red Lion, David Long, chief executive of the BBPA, said: “The budget is just two days away.  There are 48 hours to save the pub.  Mr Darling must listen to the majority of the public and MPs and recognise that increasing beer tax at this time is wholly unjustified and to do so will be to sign a death warrant for thousands more pubs.”

Mike Benner, chief executive of CAMRA, added: “In addition to the 18% increase in beer tax last year, the Government appears committed to punishing responsible pub-goers with a 2% above inflation rise in beer tax in Wednesday’s budget.

“A decision to abandon this insane, inflation-busting tax escalator and freeze beer tax are key remedies for preventing what has previously been described as a ‘bloodbath’ of pub closures across the land.”

Alan Lodge, 20.04.2009 

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