In Meon Valley we are lucky to have some of the best pubs in the UK and I am proud to support them. During the lockdown, my team and I called as many of the pubs in Meon Valley as possible to discuss their concerns during this difficult time. The Government provided a good deal of support to them, including rates relief and grants, and I was happy to help pubs access this support.
I also welcome the temporary cut to VAT from 20% to 5% for all food and non-alcoholic drinks, which initially applied from 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021, but has been extended to 31 March 2021. This will continue to support restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and similar premises across the UK. The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has supported thousands of businesses and help protect the jobs of over a million employees. Pubs, restaurants and others that participated will be fully reimbursed for the discount by the Government.
On beer duty, the Government took the decision in 2013 to end the beer duty escalator, and beer duty has been frozen or cut several times since then. Duty on spirits has been frozen over the past two years. As a result of these changes, a typical pint is cheaper than it would have been had these measures not been introduced. The recent steps taken by HMRC to make it easier to claim back the duty on any beer thrown away as a result of pub closures during the lockdown were a timely and sensible intervention.
I welcomed the announcement that for only the second time in 20 years every alcohol duty has been frozen, meaning that this freeze covers duty on spirits, beer, wine, and cider.
I want to see the Government continue to support pubs and keep costs down for consumers. Any decision to modify alcohol duty in the future is a matter for the Treasury. I have ensured my colleagues are aware of the concerns raised with me and reminded them of the importance of local pubs in our communities. There is a broad recognition of the need to reform the current duty system to support the alcoholic drinks and pubs sector in the longer term, and a call for evidence is due to be published before the end of 2020.