CAMRA recently announced that 57 pubs are lost permanently every month as the price differential between pubs and supermarkets widens. Pubs provide a regulated environment for people to enjoy alcohol socially and responsibly. The price increases will fuel yet more pub closures and increase unregulated drinking as more choose to drink at home or on the streets.

Mike Benner, CAMRA's Chief Executive said, "The Chancellor has failed to recognise that well-run community pubs are the solution to Britain's binge drinking problems. This budget will do nothing to stop binge drinking, but it will lead to pub closures on a huge scale, widen the gap between supermarket and pub prices and encourage smuggling and cross-border shopping. It's a great big nail whacked ruthlessly into the coffin of the British pub."

Mike added, "the Government themselves define pubs as local services yet this tax rise alongside other market pressures will accelerate closures to unprecedented levels. The budget shows a disregard for our national drink and for the 15 million people who enjoy it responsibly."

CAMRA had called for a cut in beer duty in the Budget to help pubs compete with supermarket prices. CAMRA believes that supermarket prices of beer are unlikely to be affected significantly by the tax increase, but pubs as small businesses, will have no choice but to increase prices at the bar.

The Government has, of course, portrayed its actions as an important step in the battle against binge drinking and has been applauded by the "new temperance" movement, who misguidedly see higher prices as the best way to stop people over-indulging. The heavy irony is that binge-drinkers are the one group whose behaviour won't be affected by the price hikes - if you're set on going out to get hammered then price doesn't come into the equation. It's those of us who drink sensibly and responsibly and who make rational decisions about when and how much to drink who will end up supping less - mostly in the pubs which desperately need our custom.

Meanwhile supermarkets will just absorb the costs and continue to sell alcohol as a loss leader while the booze cruisers and bootleggers will flourish as never before.

CAMRA has also released its latest survey of (pre-budget) pub prices. It shows that real ale prices across the UK have increased by 4.6% in the last year and the average price of a pint now sits at £2.45. CAMRA claims that average post-budget pub prices will now hit at least £2.65 for real ale and £2.85 for lager. In the Cambridge area, we can expect the £3 plus pint of real ale to become the norm soon.

Before Budget increases apply, the most expensive region for a pint is London at £2.64 for real ale and £2.84 for lager. The best value pint of real ale was in the North at £2.15, with the best value lager in the North West at £2.40.