Amid the Arctic weather I have been facing something of a media storm this week.
For once, not about pubs, but about tuition fees. As the Liberal Democrat "rebel ringleader" to quote the press, I find out that the key vote has been scheduled for when I have a debate on the future of the pub. Conspiracy theorists can make up their own minds.
At times like this, I often imagine being snowed-in in a favourite inn with nothing to do but sit by a fire with a pint of ale and good company.
One such place for me is the Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge, high on the North York Moors, where locals have had to endure an eight-day lock-in.
Perhaps next time we have a spell of Arctic weather and a difficult vote, I can come to some arrangement with the Whips to be there!
2010 has certainly been a year of change, with a general election and a new Government and considerable change within the 'trade' itself.
But how much progress has been made? On money to support pubs, we had the last Government making some promises it could not keep and the new Government saying so. We did, however have the new Government committing to adhere to the timetable outlined by the last one on reform of the beer tie. I was delighted that the Prime Minister accepted my invitation to visit a pub in British Pub Week and it was great to hear him saying he wanted this to be a pro-pub Government.
However, there appears to be little progress so far, though to be fair, the Government would argue that dealing with the economic crisis comes first. Certainly there is
real frustration that the Government appears to have made no progress in introducing a ban on below cost selling of alcohol. On the floor of the house, I raised the matter of the unholy price war raging between the main supermarket chains.
2011 will be a critical year in the history of the pub. The Localism Bill could give communities a say over the future of their pub, if the Government can be persuaded to include this alongside the right to buy. 2011 is also, critically, the year of reckoning for the pubcos and the tie, with the June 2011 deadline, and so far, while some companies are getting their houses in order, there is woefully insufficient progress from some of the pubcos. We also cannot accept another year of below-cost selling, especially with VAT set to increase.
The Save the Pub Group was pleased to support the inaugural British Pub Week in November and we plan to be involved again next year. In the meantime I propose a toast to the future of the Great British pub.
Greg Mulholland is MP for Leeds North West.