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Beer and Pub Taxation — [James Gray in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:45 pm on 5th February 2020.

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Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Labour, Barnsley East 3:45 pm, 5th February 2020

It is an unexpected pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I congratulate Mike Wood on securing this important debate and on his work with the all-party parliamentary group, of which I am proud to be a member. The fact that the debate is so well attended by hon. Members from both sides of the House shows how important pubs are to our constituents. Indeed, this month, I have had more emails about this debate than about Brexit, so that is some progress.

Several important issues were raised by hon. Members on both sides, including how important local pubs are. They are a world-renowned institution that dates back to the 11th century. In Barnsley, we sadly lost the Black Bull pub a couple of years ago, which was 250 years old. That is just one example, but pubs often have an historical and cultural significance. Through the generations, people have gone to sit in the pub and talk about their everyday lives.

Supporting our pubs makes economic and social sense. The statistics have been rehearsed today. Pubs provide more than 600 jobs in my local economy in Barnsley. The Acorn Brewery is one example. Across the country, they provide 900,000 jobs, £23 billion of economic value and £13 billion of taxation.

A number of issues have been raised, and the Minister has a number of questions to respond to. Labour has called for a radical overhaul of business rates to help local pubs, and a review of the pubs code and pub closures. As CAMRA has pointed out, 18 pubs close a week, which is a tragedy. Once we let them go, we will find it much harder to get them back.

I have a couple of questions for the Minister. What assessment have the Government made of the impact of closures on high streets? I represent a town. I am not saying that pubs are not important to cities, but in small villages and towns, they are the hub of the community, so it is important to look at the impact. That also feeds into the Government’s loneliness strategy, in which pubs were cited. What assessment has been made in relation to that?

The crucial issue for this debate is the impact of high taxation. For every £3 made in a pub, £1 is sent to the Treasury, so surely we need to reconsider beer tax. On average, pubs in the UK pay £140,000 in tax, which is disproportionately high. We need to look at that. There are also important issues about public health. While there is a public health impact, they do provide a safe, secure and perhaps moderate area in which to drink and socialise.

I thank and congratulate all hon. Members who contributed to the debate. I look forward to listening to the Minister.