Two demolished Whitchurch pubs featured strongly yesterday in a Mass Lobby of Parliament arranged by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). In the first such rally in CAMRA’s 41 year history, 1000 members travelled to London to lobby their MPs to remove the Beer Tax Escalator.

Pub signs taken to Westminster.

Rising taxes hit local pubs
The Escalator, increases beer tax by 2% above inflation automatically each year. As a result the tax on beer has gone up by over 40% since 2008 and UK drinkers now pay 11 times more tax on their beer than in Germany.

Whitchurch Pubs
Local members took the rescued pub signs from the popular Railway Hotel and the Harvest Home to Westminster to highlight the harm high taxation has on local community pubs.

The signs gained national coverage when they were broadcast on BBC2 news and covered by many other national media outlets.

Some of the 1000 CAMRA members who lobbied their MPs.

Meeting with Sir George
Barry Lambert, John Buckley and Clive Jones then met with Sir George Young, Chief Whip, and MP for the Whitchurch area, and asked him to support scrapping the beer duty escalator.

Sir George said he would write or speak to Treasury Ministers and that he would continue to support pubs in his constituency which provide good service.

The Mass Lobby saw 300 MPs having appointments requested, although a number did not turn up or agree to meet their constituents at Westminster. One was Basingstoke MP Maria Miller, which the local CAMRA group also cover.

Greg Mulholland MP speaks to the campaigners.

Rousing speeches
Following the Lobby, pub supporters met and heard a number of speeches by MPs, brewers and members of the pub trade who all called on the Government to scrap the Escalator in the 2013 budget.
Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group, Greg Mulholland MP called on all to help prevent further pub closures, while Conservative MP Andrew Griffiths praised CAMRA in obtaining 100,000 signatures that led to a 2-and-a-half hour parliamentary debate, at which he said only one person spoke in favour of the Escalator, and that was the Minister responsible for it!

It was claimed that further above inflation rises would simply decrease sales, close more pubs, lose jobs, and result in no financial gain for the Government.

While the Lobby took place, two more pubs will have closed, sadly joining the Railway Hotel and the Harvest Home.

Local Whitchurch museum
Meanwhile the signs are being returned to Whitchurch where some feel they should become part of a local museum on the history of the town.

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