Bob’s ‘Campaign to Save the Great British Pub’ backed by 200+ MPs

As The Scotsman reports:

MORE than 200 MPs yesterday called on the UK government to back a five-point plan to save “great British pubs”. In his early day motion, Lib Dem MP Bob Russell said five pubs were closing down in the UK every day, with beer sales in pubs at their lowest for nearly 40 years.

Here’s the text of Bob’s EDM in full:

EDM 10 – CAMPAIGN TO SAVE THE GREAT BRITISH PUB
03.12.2008

Russell, Bob

That this House is alarmed that five public houses are closing down every day, with beer sales in pubs at their lowest level for nearly 40 years; is deeply concerned as to the future of 7,500 public houses and more than 40,000 jobs; supports the launch of a campaign to mobilise public and political support to save the Great British Pub; believes that traditional public houses are being unfairly priced out of the market while supermarkets offer cheap deals without the level of restrictions and responsibilities required of licencees of public houses; further supports the beer industry and The Campaign for Real Ale’s Axe the Beer Tax, Save the Pub campaign which states that tax rises in the Pre-Budget Report, and further planned increases in tax, will place traditional public houses at even greater risk of closing down; and calls on the Government to adopt the campaign’s Last Orders, a five-point plan to save the British pub, as a way forward in safeguarding the future of Britain’s traditional public houses.

You can view the list of all 202 (to date) MP signatories here.

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4 Comments

  • Different Duncan 7th Apr '09 - 1:35pm

    On a selfish, individualistic level I want to support this.

    But from a considered, balanced and open-minded liberal level it just doesn’t stack up.

    Why should the government make a special case for pubs, or for real ale? The state shouldn’t meddle in what the public choose to consume, or where they choose to consume it. A flat, per unit duty is the only fair way to levy tax on alcohol. Otherwise we are discriminating against other alcohol retailers and the producers of other drinks.

  • Simon Titley 7th Apr '09 - 3:32pm

    Reply to Different Duncan – Two reasons why you are wrong.

    First, you assume that the present plight of Britain’s pubs is due entirely to customers voting with their feet. But Bob Russell’s EDM mentions the unfairness of the tax regime and the loss-leading prices charged by supermarkets. In addition to these factors, licencees in tied houses (whether owned by brewers or pub cos) are forced to pay inflated wholesale prices for beer, while many pub cos have been selling-off pubs for redevelopment, irrespective of a pub’s popularity, because the value of the land can net a greater short-term profit than the pub does as a going concern. Also, the smoking ban has lost many pubs some of their custom, particularly in working class areas.

    Second, pubs are a special case because they are a public good. They are vital community centres, particularly in villages, and without them many communities would have nowhere else to meet. In 2001, the Countryside Agency reported that, for the first time since the Norman Conquest, more than half the villages in England had no pub.

    Different Duncan’s case makes sense only if you believe that the market is an ethic in itself that trumps more fundamental values.

    I’m with a different Liberal, Hillaire Belloc, who once said, “When you have lost your inns, drown your empty selves. For you will have lost the last of England.”

  • Andrew Duffield 8th Apr '09 - 8:55am

    Actually, the decline in pub numbers is part of the wider demise in rural communities, itself directly linked to successive governments’ failure to collect the publicly created rental value of land.

    We don’t need to subsidise pubs – or any other private sector interest. We do need to understand that existing Lib Dem policy for replacing Business Rates would remove the vast subsidies on supermarkets’ edge of town acreages while lowering rates for marginal rural enterprises – including pubs.

    Existing policy would also levy a fair tax on second homes, reducing still inflated prices and returning many to local use, helping maintain viable rural populations.

    Longer-term, a similar Lib Dem fiscal shift would take rural low-earners out of tax, reducing labour costs for rural businesses (like pubs) to help them grow.
    Would that our MPs promoted established party policy, instead of calling for more market distorting and ultimately damaging subsidies.

    As far as sin taxes on alcohol are concerned, a Liberal chancellor would surely have a simple, flat, volumetric duty fairly levied across all products.

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