Pubs

Oral Answers to Questions — Business, Innovation and Skills – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 11th September 2014.

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Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

The Government have introduced a number of measures to support pubs, including ending the beer duty escalator and cutting beer duty. We are supporting pub tenants through the introduction of a statutory code of practice to govern the relationship between pub-owning companies and their tied tenants, with an independent adjudicator to enforce the code. The measures will be introduced through the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill.

Photo of Andrew Jones Andrew Jones Conservative, Harrogate and Knaresborough

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Pubs are often the hubs of their communities, but in Harrogate and Knaresborough we have had a spate of local pubs being converted into supermarkets. Will my right hon. Friend work across Government, particularly with the Department for Communities and Local Government, to see what more can be done further to support pubs, and keep them open and at the heart of local communities?

Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

My hon. Friend is right, and I believe that his constituency houses the Pub is The Hub voluntary organisation that plays an extremely important role in that respect. I think it receives significant funding from my colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Plunkett Foundation, and I encourage my hon. Friend to support that organisation in its work.

Photo of Bob Russell Bob Russell Liberal Democrat, Colchester

I endorse the question that has just been put, so will the Minister look across the Government—if we can have joined-up Government—at possibly reducing the rateable value on traditional community local public houses, which face a lot of competition from binge-drinking premises and supermarkets?

Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

The issue of rateable valuation will arise in the revaluation, when it occurs, but my hon. Friend will be aware that pubs have benefited significantly in the autumn statement from the package on business rates, which is worth £1 billion. A third of all pubs have now benefited from the £1,000 discount given to low-value property.

Photo of Toby Perkins Toby Perkins Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills)

The Opposition very much welcome the news that the Government are bringing forward a new pubs code in the small business Bill—we would, because we have asked for it on three occasions, and the Secretary of State has voted against it. He will know that there is concern that the appeals mechanism gives tenants the opportunity to have a “Here’s what you could’ve won” review of their appeal without any right to question it. There is also a sense that the small, family-owned brewers are being brought into a problem that they did not make. What representations has he had on the Bill, and can he give us any assurances that it will satisfy people who are worried about our pubs, so that we do not have to keep returning to the issue, and so that the industry has certainty on what the future in the next Parliament will look like?

Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills

We have no wish to create problems for the small, family-owned pubs, which are an extremely important part of the industry. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that one cornerstone of the proposals is the free-of-tie rent assessment, which does not apply to pubs with smallholdings. Small, family-owned pubs are already subject to the voluntary code. In a sense, it would be right for tied pubs of all kinds to be given some protection.