Select Committee on Scottish Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA)


  1.1  While the Scottish drinks industry remains competitive and seeks to offer a fair deal to consumers there are areas of concern:

    —  Choice and diversity have suffered as a result of the continued consolidation of breweries and pub chains, particularly disadvantaging small independent brewers.

    —  High excise duty rates mean higher prices and less investment for Scottish consumers.


  2.1  CAMRA believes there is a special case for a reduction in excise duty on beer:

    —  The legitimate UK beer market is in decline.

    —  Beer sales provide a crucial revenue stream for pubs (particularly traditional community pubs).

    —  Excise duty on beer has risen at a faster rate over the past 25 years than for other alcoholic drinks.

    —  Brewing is an important Scottish industry suffering as a result of unfair foreign competition.

  2.2  The consequences of high beer duty are only too clear. As consumers, we pay the high prices caused by high beer tax, and we also pay for that policy in pub closures, reduced investment in pubs and breweries and through the social consequences of uncontrolled access to alcohol.

  1.3  Scotland's high beer tax polices distort the economy and discriminate against Scottish companies of all sizes and against Scottish jobs. It is an unfair tax that hits the poorest the hardest and which further undermines the viability of Scottish community pubs.

  1.4  CAMRA believes alcohol abuse should be targeted through a national alcohol strategy rather than through excise duty, which has been shown to be counterproductive because it creates an incentive to smuggle and thus increases uncontrolled home consumption.

  1.5  A reduction in excise duty on beer would lead to a significant employment gain in Scotland. Firstly brewing itself is a labour intensive process, and secondly beer is predominantly consumed on licensed premises generating jobs in the pub retail sector. In 1999 68.1 per cent of beer in the UK was consumed on licensed premises[90].


  3.1  CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, wishes to see a diverse brewing market with a range of brewery companies offering choice and competition for the beer drinker.

  3.2  Progressive Beer Duty (PBD) would enable small brewers to thrive and grow by investing in pubs and marketing and give them some control over the distribution channels for their beer.

  3.3  The brewing industry is subject to monopolistic and monopsonistic distortions. Generally small brewers lack a tied estate of any size, although they may have acquired one or two pubs, and so are separated from their ultimate customers by distribution channels controlled by national and regional brewers, recently created pub owning companies and major beer distributors.

  3.4  A system of Progressive Beer duty exists in many countries of the European Union including Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands and Finland. Under EU legislation (EU 82/93EC) any Member State can introduce a system that allows up to a 50 per cent cut in the standard rate of excise duty for brewers producing less than 200,000 hectolitres.

  3.5  The introduction of a progressive beer duty (PBD) will help offset the market power of the major national brewers and pub companies, and enable small brewers to not only survive but thrive and bring choice and diversity to the beer drinker.


  4.1  Consumer choice has remained severely restricted during the 1990s as both the brewing and pub retailing markets has consolidated. The number of national, regional and family brewers has declined, while the market shares of national and international brewers have increased.

  4.2  In Scotland there is effectively a duopoly between Scottish and Newcastle and Bass. In addition much of Scotland's free trade is tied by loan agreements.

  4.3  CAMRA welcomes the decision of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to retain the guest beer provision, as we believe it has an important role to play as long as any national brewer has a tenanted estate and as a method of promoting consumer choice.

  4.4  Wholesaling and distribution are largely controlled by the national brewers (Scottish Courage, Carlsberg Tetley and Bass Tradeteam) and the practice of discounting wholesale beer prices to attract pub chain contracts is rife. This practice disadvantages small brewers and small independent pub groups.

  4.5  CAMRA opposes all takeovers and mergers in the brewing and pub industries which cannot be shown to offer clear benefits to consumers. The continued vigilance of the Competition Authorities is vital to ensure a level playing field for small operators, and a fair deal for consumers.


  5.1  CAMRA fully supports the Government's proposals to introduce new legislation to provide consumers with proper protection against short beer measures.

  5.2  A number of surveys by local authorities and CAMRA have found that four out of five pints served in pubs are under measure, and that one pint in four is short by more than five per cent, in breach of the guidelines of the Brewers and Licensed Retailers Association. Consumer surveys have shown consistent support for a tightening of the law against short measure.


  6.1  The drinks industry is a highly regulated industry with the involvement of numerous different Government departments. In the drinks industry more than any other a joined up approach is needed. Furthermore the Scottish drinks industry is affected by policies from the European Union; the British Government, the Scottish Executive, and local authorities. Good levels of communication between separate tiers of Government are important to ensure the creation of consistent public policy.

  6.2  CAMRA supports the industry's campaign to cut excessive red tape to the extent that we believe that many areas of regulation are in need of simplification with a single point of contact. Maintaining consumer protection however must be assured before any regulations are abolished.


  7.1  A reduction in excise duty; a system of progressive beer duty; full pints; and continued vigilance by the competition authorities are important policy changes through which Westminster could help ensure a fair deal for Scottish consumers.


February 2001



  1.  CAMRA, The Campaign for Real Ale, is a not for profit, independent voluntary consumer body which exists to promote the interest of both beer drinkers and pub goers.

  2.  CAMRA was founded in 1971 and its membership now exceeds 59,000.

  3.  CAMRA's mission is to act as the champion of the consumer in relation to the UK and European drinks industry. Its aims are as follows:

    —  Maintain consumer rights.

    —  Promote quality, choice and value for money.

    —  Support the public house as a focus for community life.

    —  Campaign for the greater appreciation of traditional beers, ciders and perries as part of national heritage and culture.

  4.  CAMRA is funded by members' subscriptions, sales of publications and products and proceeds from beer festivals.

90   BLRA-Statistical Handbook 2000 (BLRA, London 2000). Back

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