The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) is challenging the UK Government to back up its warm rhetoric towards pubs with action in the upcoming Budget.

The BBPA has called on the Government to announce a duty tax freeze on beer in next month's annual Budget statement. Today (16 February), the trade body backed up its argument with the publication of a report that shows the beer and pub sector to employ nearly 1m people.

The sector adds GBP21bn (US$33.9bn) to the UK economy annually, according to the report, commissioned by BBPA and conducted by Oxford Economics. BBPA chief executive, Brigid Simmonds, called on ministers to make good on their declarations of support for community pubs in the UK.

"The Government is planning massive increases in Beer Tax in the Budget next month," said Simmonds. "This is the last thing we need. With the Government looking for growth, with the right policies, we could be creating thousands of new jobs."

Ministers plan to increase tax on beer, wine and spirits by at least 2% above inflation in the Budget. That would mean an increase of around 6% in real terms, following the 2.5% increase in value added tax in January.

Prime minister David Cameron today specfically attacked "cheap supermarket drinks" as a leading cause of excess drinking. Speaking during Prime Minister's Questions in Parliament, he said that he is in favour of "tougher minimum pricing on alcohol".    

Last month, the Government announced that it will ban the sale of alcoholic drinks below the sum total of duty tax and value added tax. This would set a base price of GBP0.38 per 440ml can of lager, but the pub industry is concerned that prices will remain too low. A pint (568ml) of beer in a bar or pub costs around GBP3 on average.