British Pubs

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:31 am on 23rd February 2010.

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Photo of Anne Main Anne Main Conservative, St Albans 11:31 am, 23rd February 2010

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I do not watch those particular soap operas, but I am fully aware of them. [Interruption.] I do not have the time.

It is important that we look at the unfair blame that is often shifted on to small local pubs. In St. Albans, it is difficult to finger the pub that made the last irresponsible sale to a young person. If there is only one pub in a village, it is easy to see where people who are causing trouble are coming from, but it is hard to do that in areas such as St. Albans, and we are not alone in that-many historic cities have the same problem.

I have touched on the problems of smoking gardens. Unfortunately, another part of the problem associated with pubs is the vomiting and urinating in front of people's houses and in their gardens. The Department for Communities and Local Government is looking into whether local authorities should provide more toilets, and some pubs and big businesses have made the useful suggestion that we should have a community toilet scheme. Pubs are willing to offer their premises for charitable events and social events and, indeed, to embrace a community toilet scheme. The National Association for Colitis and Crohn's Disease, which was launched in St. Albans-the city is its home-recognises that many people cannot wait to use toilets, and that is not the result of drunkenness. The association therefore welcomes the fact that pubs are prepared to embrace a community toilet scheme. Yet again, pubs are showing their willingness to be a part of the community and to contribute.

We should bear that in mind, as well as the fact that pubs can and do offer so much more. I say that because some very large pubs and clubs have caused out-of-hours antisocial behaviour, and the result, unfortunately, has been the demonisation of all pubs, with everyone being tarred with the same brush.

On behalf of the smaller, well run pubs in St. Albans, I welcome the possibility of a rethinking of the tied pub, because damage is being done to young people who are prepared to take on what are in effect historic buildings, in conservation areas. The Boot, in St. Albans, which is a conservation pub, had a problem with a flood. It was closed for ages because it had to do everything through the planning department, in line with the requirements of the conservation officer. That must have been very had financially.

I ask that when historic places such as St. Albans are considered, it will be borne in mind that the pressures involved are not necessarily those that affect a local supermarket. Tesco, which is also based in Hertfordshire, can afford to weather a big storm, but many local pubs cannot, and they are being pushed over the edge by things as small as flooding in a historic conservation area pub, or snow, because if the council does not grit the streets people will not go to the pub, but make their way to Tesco, which has the might to ensure that its car park is user-friendly.