British Pubs

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 12:00 pm on 23rd February 2010.

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Photo of Greg Mulholland Greg Mulholland Shadow Minister (Health) 12:00 pm, 23rd February 2010

If we are serious about the matter, we need to value that contribution. I have to say that I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman's premise. I must move on now to the two main issues that must be tackled if we are serious about saving the British pub. All too often we have an air-brushed debate, which is deliberately manufactured by those in the industry who do not want real change. I refer here to the rather misleading "I'm Backing the Pub" campaign that is being promoted by the British Beer and Pub Association.

If we are serious about saving the pub, two things must happen. First, we must reform planning laws. As Mr. Drew said, it is all very well to say that we support the pub, but until we give communities the right to stop the closure of the pubs-they have none at the moment-this is all talk. The Minister would have no say about the closure of his local pubs in Wibsey, which is in his constituency. Decisions to close a pub against the wishes of the community could be taken in Solihull, Burton-on-Trent or anywhere else. We need to have pubs in their own use class order so that any change of use to a pub would have to go through a planning process, which should include an independent viability study to see if that pub is, or could be, viable. At the moment, even pubs that are making money are being deliberately closed just to suit shareholders' interests, and that is a national scandal. We still have the absurd situation in which it is perfectly legal to demolish a free-standing pub overnight without planning permission or to turn it into a restaurant, a shop, a café, or, ludicrously in England and Wales, a financial services office. I have nothing against accountants, but let us face it, they are not hubs of community life.

The second issue is the structure of the industry and the way in which the tied tenant system operates. That is an area that must be tackled. Any solutions that do not tackle such an issue will not stop the closures from happening.