Time called on Beer Orders

CAMRA, small brewers question government's decision to scrap regulation

Feb 20, 2002 - The British government has announced plans to revoke the Beer Orders instituted in 1989, because it feels such regulation is no longer necessary.


The Orders forced large national brewers such as Scottish & Newcastle and Whitbread to sell many of their pubs and also introduced a guest beer provision allowing their remaining tenants to take one cask ale and one bottled beer from other breweries

The Campaign for Real Ale reacted to the decision with anger and disbelief, and predicts the loss of hundreds of community pubs and the closure of dozens of small brewing companies should deregulation be allowed to proceed.

Mike Benner, Head of Campaigns and Communications said, "The revocation of the Beer Orders will send shock waves through the industry as there will be nothing to stop large brewers and pub chains tying up huge chunks of the market, restricting access to smaller brewers and smashing consumer choice."

The government maintains that recent market developments mean the Beer Orders have "outlived their usefulness and can be revoked in their entirety."

"The former situation where brewers were able to prevent proper competition between pubs and restrict consumer choice has changed radically," said Melanie Johnson, Competition minister. "The Beer Orders have served their purpose. It is time to remove them from the statute book."

The Government will now focus on competition within the market - and particularly on small brewers. It is continuing to consider reducing duty on beer produced by small brewers and a decision on the issue will be made in time for April's Budget.

Like CAMRA, the Society of Independent Brewers does not support the move. A spokesman said that small brewers were left vulnerable by the government withdrawing one regulation without making provision for another.

"We find it extraordinary that Melanie Johnson can revoke the orders that gave small brewers the only legal opportunity to sell their products into an almost completely closed market," chairman Paul Davey said. "To suggest the Beer Orders have served their purpose is absurd as we increasingly find we cannot sell our beers."

Benner added: "The DTI is pulling the rug from under Britain's 15 million beer drinkers and 400 small brewing companies and leaving us all to the mercy of global brewing giants and massive pub chains who will now be able to control the market unhindered. The decision, made with no consultation of the parties involved, demonstrates a mind-boggling lack of understanding of the industry and it will have a huge impact on choice and competition for years to come."

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