My Lords, pubs, as we realise, arouse strong emotions. We had a lengthy debate on this topic in Committee in the Moses Room. I do not want to rerun all the remarks that I laid out then. I remind the House that until three years ago I was a non-executive director of a company that operated brewers and about 2,000 pubs. I am outside the quarantine period, so that is no longer in my entry in the Register of Lords’ Interests.
I begin from what I hope is a shared position: we all want to keep pubs open wherever possible. The question posed by this amendment is at root this: will pubs be kept open by this additional legislation? I am afraid that for me the answer is negative. Pubs are closing because people use them less, and people are using them less because of changing leisure habits. Pubs are closing because people can buy the beer far more cheaply in the supermarket and then drink at home. Pubs are closing because of increasing beer duty and council tax and because of the introduction of the minimum wage, the living wage, the smoking ban, the drink-driving ban, new licensing requirements, and new health and safety legislation. Collectively, these have all combined to squeeze the general profitability of pubs to a point where many can no longer provide an adequate return to long-suffering and hard-working landlords.
Legislation cannot make a bad landlord into a good one. Legislation will not enlarge the curtilage, or land area, of a pub to enable new kitchen facilities or new parking areas to be constructed.