The regeneration of the British brewing industry was principally a result of CAMRA’s campaigning.
Legislation around brewing and pubs has had a mixed impact: some good, some not so good. We have campaigned vigorously (and with some success) when legislation has threatened to have adverse consequences for the beer drinker or pub-goer.
In the 1980s, with six national brewers dominating beer and pubs the government became concerned about the lack of competition, the limited choice available and high prices. In 1989, a report by the Monopolies and Mergers Commission found that the vertical integration between brewing and pub retailing, known as the tie, constituted a complex monopoly which was against the interests of drinkers. The report recommended loosening the tie to increase competition between brewers, wholesalers and pub retailers.
The 1989 Beer Orders limited the number of pubs owned by large breweries and allowed their tenants to choose a guest ale. This led to the growth of non-brewing pub-owning companies.
A sliding excise-duty scale was devised in 2002 to enable small breweries to compete with large companies enjoying significant economies of scale.
This stimulated a rapid growth in the number of small breweries, predominantly serving local markets, but many medium-sized brewers were unable to benefit.
Successive governments have influenced the sale of alcohol by increasing duty rates, which rose by more than 40 per cent between 2008 and 2013. Though cuts have been made in recent budgets, beer tax is higher in the UK than in any other country in Europe except Finland: 52p on a pint, compared with 14p in France, 9p in Belgium and 4p in Spain.
Pubs in England pay business rates according to their building’s rateable value – but as many pubs now have fewer customers, a review of the rating system is overdue.
English legislation recognising Assets of Community Value is designed to protect pubs from closure by making it harder for pub owners to sell them off for redevelopment as houses or shops.