'Trade must unite to save pubs'

By John Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Mp greg mulholland, Alcoholic beverage, Greg mulholland, Martin rawlings

'Trade must unite to save pubs'
Trade lobbyists and campaigners must put differences aside to save the pub

Trade lobbyists and campaigners must put their differences behind them and campaign to save the British pub.

That was the message from a lively debate in Parliament last night, called by Liberal Democrat MP Greg Mulholland (pictured with SIBA president Keith Bott), into plans for a national pro-pub "umbrella"​ campaign.

There were clear areas of agreement - about the need for action against cheap supermarket booze, duty hikes and Government red tape.

We shouldn't look at legislative solutions to these because Government always gets things wrong​Martin RawlingsBBPA

There was also broad support for a national campaign to get the general public on-side.

But opinion was divided into the best approach to take.

Dennis Griffiths, licensee and vice president of the Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations, slated the "immoral"​ practice of selling alcohol below cost-price.

He said: "We have to change laws in this country to combat the supermarkets."

Quick wins

But British Beer & Pub Association director of pubs and leisure Martin Rawlings said: "We shouldn't look at legislative solutions to these because Government always gets things wrong.

"I think politicians are incapable of deregulation."

Rawlings said the focus should be on "quick wins"​, such as persuading Government to halt the duty escalator, increasing the maximum stake on AWP machines and increasing rate relief.

"The trade is in trouble now. Some of the solutions are two to three years down the track.

"Minimum pricing is going to take a long time to get through."

All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group secretary Robert Humphreys urged against focusing so centrally on supermarkets.

"It's not an obvious vote-winner, to ask customers to vote for higher prices in supermarkets.

"Saying: 'pubs - use them or lose them' - needs to be carefully considered."

Fair Pint

There were calls from members of the anti-pubco Fair Pint campaign to highlight the conduct of pub companies.

However, campaign member and licensee Mark Dodds said: "We are fully behind anything that sustains the quality pub.

"Our specific beef is with pubcos but that's a separate issue here."

Mulholland said there are plans for follow-up meetings in the future.

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