British Pubs

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:00 am on 23rd February 2010.

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Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans Conservative, Ribble Valley 11:00 am, 23rd February 2010

I could not agree more; I am 100 per cent. with the hon. Gentleman. What he describes needs to be done. I have asked Ministers about it and every time, they say, "Brussels won't allow it. There's a problem with Brussels." Let us sort out Brussels. The pub is an iconic British institution. If we want to support pubs and ensure that supermarket pricing does not give supermarkets such a great advantage, the one thing that we need to do is recognise that the product served in a pub is different from the product that people receive when they get 24 cans from a supermarket. Therefore, different taxation on draught beer-pump-pulled beer-needs to be put in place. We need to tell Brussels that that is what we shall do. I do not see how any other part of the European Union would be disadvantaged by our recognising that pump-pulled beer is somewhat different and involves something more than just lifting up 24 cans. I am 100 per cent. behind the hon. Gentleman and I hope that we can take that matter to Brussels and say that it is something that we want to do in this country to support British pubs and that we will do it.

Since March 2008, 4,100 pubs have gone bust. Beer sales are down 16 million pints a day compared with 1979. Turnover on beer in the past 12 months alone is down £650 million. Since 1997, beer duty has gone up 14 per cent. in real terms, yet spirits duty is down by 20 per cent. How about equality of treatment for a product that is so synonymous with Britain? Like almost 200 Members of Parliament, I have backed the "I'm backing the pub" campaign led by the British Beer and Pub Association, and more than 100 MPs have signed the early-day motion on the campaign tabled by Mr. Grogan, the chairman of the all-party beer group. I am delighted to see him in his usual place.

Like many other MPs, I shall be in a pub on 19 March, as part of British tourism week, to show my support for pubs. Every year, 13.2 million tourists visit pubs in the United Kingdom. We cannot let the pub die. It is the hub, the social centre, the heart of villages and towns. It is where business deals are done, family occasions are celebrated, and darts teams, pool teams and football teams play, celebrate their wins and drown their sorrows. It is where every problem is discussed and where, as the Minister will know, a Government in waiting drink regularly. It is where the general election will be discussed daily and every evening. It is where we as candidates will banter with the regulars, and on election night it is where we shall have a final tipple, perhaps, to steady our nerves. It is where I have celebrated every election victory since moving into my village, with locals, friends and those who have helped out in the campaign.

The British pub is iconic. It represents the very heart of Britain. We have seen so much of the fabric of our way of life threatened in so many ways over the decades, from post offices to churches and from village schools to small shops and rural bus services. Now is the time to make a stand, so the message for the Minister for pubs is that we are holding him to his word about giving a helping hand now to the great British pub. Now is the time to deliver. I hope that at the end of the debate, this Minister will do just that-stand and deliver for the great British pub.