The Government has appointed the first ever minister for pubs in a bid to help stem the wave of pub closures.
Wentworth MP John Healey has been given the task of heading up a strategy to help save Britain's pubs.
Last week, the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) said the rate of pub closures had slowed from 52 a week in the first half of 2009 to 39 a week.
Healey, also housing and planning minister, is to head a task force of five ministers who will draw up a plan to help pubs.
He is said to be considering tax breaks for pubs and giving tenants the right to buy pubs from landlords if they are threatened with closure.
It is understood that the idea of appointing such a minister has been bubbling away over the past year as the Government sought to provide some cross-departmental cohesion on policies affecting pubs.
Perfect man for the job
The BBPA hailed the decision as "great news" and a "clear sign" that its campaigns, Axe the Tax and I'm Backing the Pub, had had an impact.
"The agenda set for John Healey echoes our own policy priorities," said BBPA director of communications Mark Hastings.
"I think the Government recognises it needs a more coherent strategic approach towards pubs because there are so many different departments that produce policies, which can affect pubs.
"What the Government does has a real impact on the ability of pubs to thrive and survive. If it is serious about helping local communities, then pubs must be at the top of the agenda.
"Pubs now have a strategic place in Government and we could not have asked for a better minister than John Healey."
Anti-beer tie campaigners Fair Pint also welcomed the appointment. "This is encouraging news for Fair Pint's fight for fairness for tied tenants," said founding member Steve Corbett.
"The shows that the Prime Minister understands how important the issue of pub closures will be in the next General Election and that he wants to see action taken to stem the loss of local pubs.
"When Fair Pint met the Prime Minister last year he made it clear that he understood that the structure of the industry is a problem."