How well do you think the current Government has tackled issues affecting the pubs sector?
KH: If you’d sat down with brewers, landlords and punters five years ago and said ‘you’re going to see 9p off a pint of beer, business rates cut, assets of community value (ACV) legislation in place, national insurance coming down and a huge profile by central Government around this sector’, I think they’d bite your hand off. The business sector, individual landlords and campaign groups like CAMRA all played a part and we responded positively.
TP: The biggest impact on the industry has been the fact the average family is, on average, £1,600 worse off than they were at the start of this parliament. The richest have got richer and the poorest have got poorer. Quite a lot of the poorest were decent pub customers at one time. If you have an economy that is not working for working people, you hit the pub sector. That’s a far more important impact on pubs than anything the Government will do in terms of regulation, beer duty cuts or anything else. In that regard, this Government has failed.
What other help do you think pubs need?
KH: First of all you need a listening Government. The Labour party put in place a duty escalator that was extremely unpopular and extremely negative for business. People have said, well what’s a penny? This is about businesses being able to have that money to be able to reinvest in their business. If you add together the size of this sector, the penny off a pint is a huge amount of money. I’d certainly push for more duty cuts. The important thing is making sure the public, community, councils, elected represen-tatives and action groups understand what legislation is in place and doing everything we can to promote this sector.
TP: We believe the health of the pub industry is a barometer of the health of the UK economy and society more broadly. We believe pubs are the safest places for people to drink and we want to see a higher proportion of Britain’s alcohol drunk in pubs. I think the approach we’ve taken in this parliament offers you a sign of the direction of travel we’ll take in the next parliament. We pushed for a market rent-only option [in the new pubs code] because it was our view that was the only way you were going to get fairness for tenants.
But we also engaged very thoroughly with all parts of the industry to make sure that the legislation doesn’t create unintended consequences and has a positive outcome for people that want to invest in the industry. We think planning permission should be required for any change of use from a pub and the right-to-bid process for ACV-pubs should increase to nine months (currently six months). We will also look to introduce, with the brewing industry, an export strategy where Government and businesses work together to get more British products on to the shelves and bars of foreign outlets.
Should the next Government keep the role of pubs minister?
KH: The point of a pubs minister is to give pubs a focus. But it’s not just about that role; we’ve got some significant voices on my side of the house who really push for pubs. [Parliamentary Beer Group chair] Andrew Griffiths has championed the sector and I think we need to make sure we listen to the voices of those backbenchers who have the brewing and beer industry as part of their constituencies. Do I want to carry on as pubs minister? The answer is, I’ll do whatever the prime minister wants me to do. But one thing’s for sure: I’ll remain a pubs champion.
TP: There would definitely still be a pubs minister under Labour — we introduced it in the last Government. We’ve predominantly kept pubs as a business issue and part of the business department whereas the current Government has chosen to sit pubs in the communities department. Having a business understanding of pubs doesn’t mean you don’t understand their value as a community asset, but you have to make the business side of it work.
How do you see the future of the pub trade?
KH: The successful ones will be the ones that diversify and actually respond to the local community. A young couple took over my local pub six years ago and completely turned it around. Now there’s a wet trade, an amazing food offer and it’s a friendly place. It’s about not just looking at what historically that pub did, it’s about making sure it responds to local needs and demands.
TP: If you have an economy that shares the wealth of the country a bit more equitably and puts money into people’s pockets; a planning regime that means local communities have their say; a relationship between pub-owning companies and their tenants, which is transparent, and has a right of appeal and a right to make different choices; and you keep taxes as low as possible and support exports for the industry, then there will be a pretty good future for pubs.
Why should PMA readers vote for your party?
KH: I’ve only been in this post for eight months but you’ve got to look at the record of the Tory party. It picked up a very damaged economy five years ago and we are now the biggest growing economy in the G20. We now employ more people in this country than ever before, more women than ever before and 80% of those are full-time jobs. All the landlords and landladies up and down the country who balance the books, make a wage, employ more people — they’re the hard-working individuals that we want to get behind. The number one line you’ll get from the Tory party is supporting the long-term economic plan. There is nothing more long-term than our history associated with pubs; it’s part of our DNA and pubs are something we’re going to continue
TP: We have a package that will address the prosperity of the nation. And once people have got a bit more money in their pocket, we have a set of strategies to protect and enhance the thriving pub market that will operate in a fair way that sees the profits of the industry distributed across all aspects of the industry.
KH: Wuthering Heights in Stanbury, West Yorkshire.
TP: Harley’s Bar in Staveley, Derbyshire or Old Poets Corner in Ashover, Derbyshire.
KH: Mary Jane, brewed by Ilkley Brewery — a light pale ale. Or Timothy Taylor’s Landlord.
TP: Sharp’s Doom Bar or any from Brampton Brewery.
Politician most like to have a pint with?
KH: George Osborne.
TP: Labour MPs Ian Murray or John Woodcock.