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Jonathan Isaby: Stop increasing tax on our pints of beer!

Jonathan Isaby is Political Director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, which has today launched a new campaign at www.MashBeerTax.org.

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When George Osborne stands up to deliver his Budget on March 20th, he will surely be hoping for better reviews than he got last year.

ConHome readers doubtless have many ideas as to what they would like him to announce. We at the TPA certainly do, but right now I'd like to focus on one particular measure which would surely provide a good news story from the Budget.

Quite simply, we are asking for the Chancellor to call time on the hated "Beer Duty Escalator" and freeze Beer Duty this year.

The level of Beer Duty has increased by no less than 42% in just four years, which means that when you buy a pint of beer in your local pub today, around one third of the price of a pint is going straight to the taxman. This gives the UK the dubious honour of having the second highest level of beer tax of any country in the European Union, equating to ten times the level seen in Germany, for example.

The Beer Duty Escalator was introduced in 2008 by Alistair Darling and has been left in place by the Coalition Government, despite the negative impact it has had. According to CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale), over 5,800 pubs have closed since its introduction and they continue to close at a rate of about eighteen per week.

And don't just take my word for it. In February 2009, no less a figure than Jeremy Hunt, then Shadow Culture Secretary and now Health Secretary, lamented the number of pubs closing, blaming the Beer Duty Escalator for "making a bad situation a whole lot worse". He was and is right - and he and his colleagues in government are now in a position to do something about it.

If the Government presses ahead with yet another above-inflation rise in Beer Duty at this year's Budget, it would be a further blow to people up and down the country already struggling with the increasing cost of living.

It would also more than likely be the final nail in the coffin for another clutch of cherished local pubs whose customers are being put off going for a drink by ever higher taxes.

The abolition of the Beer Duty Escalator and a freeze in the rate at next month's Budget would be a hugely welcome move which would help people already coping with so many other pressures on their finances.

So in the run-up to the Budget, the TaxPayers' Alliance is distributing hundreds of thousands of beermats (pictured above) to pubs across the UK, giving the public the facts about tax on beer, and inviting them to send a message to their local MP calling for action from George Osborne.

You can support the campaign simply by visiting www.MashBeerTax.org where, after entering your postcode, you can send a message directly to your MP, urging them to press the Chancellor for a freeze in Beer Duty.

Encourage your friends, family and colleagues to do the same, sharing the website on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #mashbeertax.

If you see one of the beermats in your local, hold it up, take a picture and send it in to us at beertax@taxpayersalliance.com along with the name of the pub and the location - we'll enter you in a draw to win a case of Shepherd Neame Spitfire Premium.

And if your local pub hasn't yet got our beermats and you've convinced the landlord that it should have a batch, let us know and we'll send some out - while stocks last!

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