The top 10 MPs most likely to affect your business

By James Wilmore

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Pub trade, Gordon brown

Critical decisions lie ahead in this Parliament that will affect the pub trade for years to come. MPs will have their say on a host of new rules and...

Critical decisions lie ahead in this Parliament that will affect the pub trade for years to come.

MPs will have their say on a host of new rules and regulations over the coming months.

The most significant is the debate around radical changes to the licensing regime. A Bill is set to start its journey in Parliament next month and new laws could be with us as early as next summer.

Meanwhile, Chancellor George Osborne will deliver the Budget in March, which will include the outcome of a Treasury review of alcohol taxes.

The government is also due to respond to a report calling for the drink-drive limit to be nearly halved.

And if that's not enough, the beer tie issue is due to crop up again when pub companies are expected to be called to give evidence to MPs on how they have reformed.

So in light of that all, we present the 10 MPs who we think will have the biggest say on the future of the trade.

1. David Cameron, Prime Minister

The boss man himself. Earlier this month Cameron promised that the coalition would be a "pub-friendly government" and that he is a "big supporter" of British pubs.

He did follow this up with a visit to a pub, for British Pub Week. And it's fair to say he looks more comfortable with a pint in his hand than Tony Blair or Gordon Brown ever did.

But he still has a Home Secretary who is talking tough on pubs and alcohol.

2. George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer

All eyes will be on Osborne on March 23, when he delivers his second Budget.

The Treasury is currently reviewing the alcohol tax system to "tackle problem drinking" - and any changes are expected to be implemented in the Budget.

The coalition previously said it would hike taxes on higher strength drinks, and has already changed the system on cider, so products with a low juice content have to pay higher duty. Nothing too radical is expected in March, but the trade will be praying for an unlikely duty freeze and a scrapping of the duty escalator.

3. Theresa May, Home Secretary

May appears to be the Cabinet member charged with keeping the Daily Mail-reading hordes happy. Despite one of her ministers, James Brokenshire, having toned down the language on the licensing changes to the softer "re-balancing" - May is still threatening to "tear up" the Licensing Act. She has plenty on her plate though, dealing with the threat from terrorism.

4. Vince Cable, Business Secretary

Cable is already proving to be a friend of the pub trade, with positive stances on a number of key areas. Earlier this month he promised the licensing changes would be "balanced and proportionate".

Prior to this, Dr Vince warned pubcos they still face action if failing to deliver on their promises for reform - and acknowledged licensees are "frustrated" with the beer tie.

The Business, Innovation and Skills committee, chaired by Labour and Co-operative MP Adrian Bailey (another to watch), will seek to smoke out whether the pubcos have really held good on their promises.

Cable has also put a rocket up the banks, warning them that they could face penalties if refusals to lend to small businesses continues.

The only worry is that if Cable is regarded as too radical by his boss, David Cameron, he could find himself shuffled out of the Cabinet. But the implications for the stability of the coalition would be huge.

5. Andrew Lansley, Health Secretary

Lansley has also displayed a positive attitude to the industry so far.

He addressed around 100 senior drinks industry figures last month, assuring them "prohibition doesn't work" and legislation is not always the answer in tackling alcohol problems.

Trade leaders have been encouraged by his remarks - and a public health "responsibility deal", of which alcohol will be a part, is due to be launched in March.

In the meantime, the health lobby, some of which is shocked by Lansley's engagement with the alcohol industry, will be pushing hard to make sure he is not getting hoodwinked by the trade.

6. Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister

Clegg's relationship with Cameron appears to be holding firm for the time being. But the nagging question remains, how much power does the Lib Dem leader really have?

When it comes to pubs, Clegg has shown he is well aware of the pubco issue. In an exclusive interview with The Publican last year, he claimed the pubco model was "unfair" and there was "clearly a problem" as some companies did not have their heart in the pub trade.

He also attacked successive duty hikes saying they were a "raid on an easy target to fill a black hole in the Treasury coffers".

He is also a former co-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group.

7. Bob Neill, minister responsible for community pubs

A former barrister, specialising in criminal law, Neill has taken on the role John Healey held in the previous government.

News only emerged of Neill's new responsibilities after digging by CAMRA. But early signs are positive, with Neill promising to protect pubs and help them thrive. It will be good to have someone standing up for pubs in the government.

But before the industry gets too carried away, it must be remembered that Neill is only a junior minister in the Department for Communities and Local Government.

8. Ed Miliband, Labour Party leader

Miliband is still finding his feet, but has more than held his own facing Cameron at Prime Minister's Questions.

In his first big speech as leader he gave a welcome nod to the gripe licensees have with supermarkets selling alcohol so cheaply. He was ticking a box, but at least shows the problem is on his radar.

9. Greg Mulholland, Save the Pub Group chairman

He may not have made a recent poll of the 50 most influential Lib Dem MPs (even though there's only 57 in Parliament), but when it comes to sticking up for the trade, you can't really fault Mulholland.

As a scourge of the pubcos, particularly Enterprise Inns, whose chief executive Ted Tuppen he has had many a tussle with, Mulholland is highly regarded among hard-pressed tenants - and a backbencher with balls.

He's even set up his own parliamentary group, the Save the Pub group, to make a noise about the issues affecting the industry - separate from the Beer Group, now chaired by Labour MP Alan Meale, who will also be fighting the trade's corner.

10. Your local MP

With a potentially unstable government, backbench MPs will play a vital role in the current Parliament. That's why it's more important than ever for licensees across the country to engage with their local MP.

Invite them into your pub, tell them about the issues that are affecting you - or shout about all the amazing things you are doing to enrich the local community. How about even letting them use part of your pub to host a regular surgery for constituents?

And invite the local press while you're at it.

Related topics: Legislation

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