British Pubs

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 12:21 pm on 23rd February 2010.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Gerry Sutcliffe Gerry Sutcliffe Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Sport) 12:21 pm, 23rd February 2010

It is a great pleasure to respond to this excellent debate and to serve under your chairmanship, Miss Begg. I congratulate Mr. Evans, whom I call a friend. We have shared a number of pints in a number of pubs while attending a variety of events. I know that he speaks with passion on the issue. It is not just something that has come up today; he has been consistent over his many years in Parliament about the role of the pub, and has been a loyal member of the all-party beer group, many members of which are here today. I congratulate the all-party group on its work.

One thing that this Government cannot be accused of is not having, listening to and responding to a number of debates about pubs and their future. The passion of many of the hon. Members who have contributed to this debate does not hide the context of the issues facing pubs. Anybody who stood up and said that every pub in the land could be saved would be completely wrong. The pub industry is facing great change, and many of the issues must be seen within that context. It must also be accepted that people's drinking habits have changed dramatically, which has had an impact on the number of pubs that have closed. I will try to respond to the issues raised that are Government issues, but some are for local government, some are for Europe and some are for the industry itself.

I understand what Greg Mulholland said about the tie. It is a competition issue. I have been closely involved with it not only as licensing Minister but previously, as consumer Minister and competition Minister. There are problems that must be addressed. I think that the route that the Campaign for Real Ale has taken is the right one, and I know that colleagues in other Departments have concerns. We need to ensure that we address the issues.

It is right that the British Beer and Pub Association has a view on tied pubs. The BBPA was trying to say that that is not an issue, and it has claimed the same thing in deliberations with me. We need to get to the core. The fact that the Office of Fair Trading is considering what CAMRA said is a step in the right direction.