Beer Taxation and Pubs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:46 pm on 28th March 2019.

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Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Scotland), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence) 2:46 pm, 28th March 2019

I thank Mike Wood for bringing this debate before us. As other Members have said, this is light relief compared with the dark place we have been in for far too long—let me put it that way.

Many of the points I would have made have already been made, so I will crave your indulgence, Madam Deputy Speaker, and tell a little anecdote from the past. As some Members know, prior to appearing rather unexpectedly in this place, I was much involved in amateur dramatics and the local pantomime group—I have, indeed, been the dame in my time. On a Thursday night—to go back to the halcyon days of pubs—we would repair to a particularly famous old pub in my home town. At 11 o’clock, the barman, Sandy, would say, “Well, well, boys and girls, I think we will need to lock the door.” He would shut the massive, great door, turn the key and then carry on pulling the pints. One Thursday, I turned to a new member of the cast beside me at the bar and said, “Goodness me, do you think the bobbies might come knocking on the door tonight?” He laughed and said, “Ha, I’m an off-duty police sergeant,” which caused a slight reaction around the bar. Then, a voice further down the bar said, “That’s nothing. I’m an honorary sheriff’s substitute.” They were lax days, but I just wanted to tell Members that anecdote.

There are two points I want to pick up on in my brief contribution. Ruth Smeeth made the point that publicans and their staff are trained, and they know the danger signs when somebody is drinking too much. As often as not, they will refuse to serve them, or they will get them into a taxi and get them out of the place. How much better is that, as she said, than having some lonely bloke drinking himself into a stupor at home on cheap White Lightning or cheap wine? We all know that far too many household fires are caused by somebody being blootered in their seat and dropping a fag down the back of the settee or whatever. There is therefore a safety aspect to this.

If someone goes on holiday to Spain, Italy, or wherever, if they are like me, fairly quickly they think, “I’ll pop down the village”. It is a hot day, there is a place with nice wee tables outside, and they have a pint of lager. Let us switch that the other way round. Visitors come to the highlands of Scotland and find no pubs—are you kidding? Tourism is crucial to the highlands, and the one industry that is fundamentally sustainable in the long term. If there are no pubs, the visitor experience will be much impoverished, to say the least, and the bad news is that the next year, people will think, “Perhaps I’ll not go there again”. Pubs have a far wider role than has yet been touched on in this debate, and I echo all that has been said about pubs being part of the social fabric of our communities.