A number of constituents have contacted me, urging me to support the recommendations of the BIS Select Committee to help local pubs survive and flourish.
This is an issue I take seriously; in the last Parliament I spoke in a debate about this
and met a number of local publicans at the Station Hotel in Andover. I continue to take an interest in this Parliament, and am delighted that some pubs have been bought by the licencees from the Pubco, such as the Fox in North Waltham. Others have sadly had to close, such as the Harvest Home in Whitchurch.
The pubs play a crucial role in community life in North West Hampshire and I want to help them.
The Government also recognises that local pubs are part of the fabric of local life and an important source of enterprise, business and community action.
For these reasons, I know that my colleagues in the Government are carefully considering the recommendations made in the Business Select Committee Pub Company Report and they will respond in due course.
They have already taken a number of measures to support the industry, especially individual local pubs, by:
• Introducing a community right to buy: new rights through the Localism Bill will enable residents to save struggling pubs by taking them over rather than seeing them empty and derelict.
• Reviewing the rules on unfair restrictive covenants: these rules have often restricted competition and helped contribute to the disappearance of pubs from our towns and villages.
• A ban on the sale of alcohol below cost price: this will help protect local pubs from unfair loss leading by some supermarkets.
• Reforming licensing rules: these reforms will make it easier to play live music in pubs and this should help pub owners attract new business.
• Fair taxation on alcohol: having already abandoned the last administration’s proposals for a significant increase in cider duty, the Government is balancing the need to tackle problem drinking without unfairly penalising responsible drinkers and community pubs.
• The doubling of small business rate relief for another year: the Government has doubled small business rate relief for two years and is also giving local councils new powers, via the Localism Bill, to introduce local business rate discounts.
As you may know, the Prime Minister has also appointed Bob Neill MP as Minister responsible for community pubs. He meets regularly with industry representatives, such as CAMRA, to explore what more the Government can do to protect the local pub and I am confident that he will continue to work hard to secure a better deal for pubs.
Finally, you might be interested to know that British Pubs Week will start on 28 October. The event will see hundreds of pubs across the country inviting customers to join them for a week of special events and special offers to celebrate the important role that local pubs play in their community. I would encourage constituents to take part in this initiative and do all that you can to help protect our local pubs.