BREWERS are backing an MP’s call for a freeze in beer duty when the government presents its budget later this month.

Bill Wiggin, MP for North Herefordshire, sent a handcrafted beer barrel to Chancellor George Osborne as a symbol of Britain’s worldrenowned brewing and pub industry.

He said although beer duty has risen by 42 per cent since 2008, the chancellor is planning a further increase in the Budget on March 20.

He said: “I strongly support calls for a duty freeze, and I hope the chancellor will listen.

“North Herefordshire farmers produce more than half the UK crop of hops and so while we are famous for our ciders, we are also a key player inbeer productiontoo."

Anthony Stevens of Ledbury Real Ales said: “The tax on beer has risen 42 per cent since 2008, but the revenues from beer sales have only gone up 12 per cent.

“The beer duty escalator isn’t working, and it’s fantastic that Mr Wiggin is speaking out on this.”

Frances Casey of Malvern Hills Brewery said: “We totally agree with this.

“In fact, the duty should be lowered.

“The increase in beer duty over the years has harmed pubs and harmed sociability, with people staying at home and pubs closing.

“We have had a policy of working with publicans and keeping our prices down, but the duty can't be raised indefinitely.”

Mr Wiggins’s barrel was delivered to the Treasury by MPs and representatives of the British Beer and Pub Association, Campaign for Real Ale and Society of Independent Brewers.