Scottish & Newcastle is to lead a call this week for Britain to lower its excise duty on beer and to establish a joint customs task force with France to crack down onbootlegging, The Times reports. Guy Dickson, the brewer's managing director, will tell a hearing in Brussels that the current system of widely divergent excise duties among the EU's 15 Member States is doing "irreparable damage" to Britain's beer industry. Britain currently has the second highest beer duty in the EU and France the fourth lowest. The Times reports that the bootlegging of cigarettes and alcohol costs the government more than £1 billion every year in lost tax revenues, with nearly half of this coming from lost beer duties. In a hearing at the European Parliament, Mr Dickson will say that the only way to reduce tax distortions within the EU's internal market is for the five countries with the highest rates - Finland, Britain, Ireland, Sweden and Denmark - to lower their duties. The call comes as Brussels prepares to deliver a report on EU excise duties on alcohol.