Community Pubs

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 8th September 2014.

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Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield 2:30 pm, 8th September 2014

What steps his Department is taking to support community pubs; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Kris Hopkins Kris Hopkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

In the autumn statement, we announced a £1 billion package of business rate support, which included a £1,000 discount for shops, pubs and restaurants with rateable values below £50,000. That could benefit three in four pubs. We are also providing funding to help communities diversify their pubs, and pubs can be saved through the community right to bid.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

There are many reasons why pubs are closing: people do not want to drink and drive; some people do not go to pubs because of the smoking ban, although I support that; and people buy low-cost alcohol from supermarkets. Is my hon. Friend aware that one problem is the pubcos that charge high rents? How will the new statutory code help?

Photo of Kris Hopkins Kris Hopkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

I reassure my hon. Friend that tied tenants will be able to report breaches in the statutory code to a new independent adjudicator, who will be able to arbitrate and bring penalties against individuals or organisations that fail to act appropriately.

Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington

In August 2011, the Government consulted on ending the use of restrictive covenants by pub companies to prevent new owners from reopening valued pubs. Three years on, the Government are yet to announce the outcome of the consultation. Will the Minister commit to ending the disgraceful practice of using restrictive covenants to prevent closed pubs from being reopened?

Photo of Kris Hopkins Kris Hopkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

The Government pledged to release the consultation relating to covenants by the end of this year. I hope to release the information in the coming weeks.

Photo of Ian Austin Ian Austin Labour, Dudley North

The popular, successful and profitable Seven Stars pub in Sedgley in my constituency is threatened with closure because Marston’s and Morrisons are discussing turning it into a supermarket. Does the Minister agree that those companies ought to accept my invitation to meet residents who are concerned not just about the loss of the pub, but about the impact on traffic, parking and businesses in the nearby town centre? Is it possible to introduce tougher rules, so that planning permission is always required before a pub is demolished or closed?

Photo of Kris Hopkins Kris Hopkins The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

I think that the businesses concerned should meet local residents—that dialogue is absolutely appropriate. The Government have given powers to councils under article 4 and the community right to bid mechanism. If communities have treasured assets that they want to be recognised as community assets, they can register them with the local council and give them some protection. I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s participation and the dialogue that he is having with local business.