Rishi Sunak, who succeeded former Conservative leader William Hague as MP for Richmond in North Yorkshire, has written to almost 200 pubs in his sprawling rural constituency asking for information on a range of industry issues including beer pricing, the tie between tenants and pub companies, staff recruitment, business rates and licensing laws.
He said: "Pubs are cornerstones of rural areas like ours. Not only do they provide employment for hundreds of local people, but they lie at the heart of so many communities and help to sustain the social fabric of North Yorkshire."
Appeal for comprehensive data
He said he received lots of anecdotal feedback from pub landlords, managers and owners he came across in his constituency work but he needed more comprehensive information and data about the sector.
"This information will help me fight for pubs in parliament and raise the issues that really matter with Government ministers,” Sunak added.
Sunak is not, however, a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group.
The MP’s spokesperson, Malcolm Warne, said that being teetotal was Sunak’s personal decision, although he added: “It’s possible that alcohol touched his lips at some point.”
MP's local shut down
Sunak’s own local, the Haynes Arms at Kirby Sigston, closed about six months ago. Warne said the decision to undertake the survey had been taken before the closure.
Despite being teetotal, the MP’s efforts to help local pubs has been widely welcomed in his constituency.
Pub owner Charles Cody, landlord of the Charles Bathurst (CB) Inn in Arkengarthdale, the Punch Bowl at Low Row and leaseholder of the King's Arms at Askrigg, said he welcomed the opportunity to contribute.
He said: "It is a very positive initiative. It recognises the challenges the pub sector is facing and I welcome Mr Sunak's survey as a way of getting across the views of pub owners and tenants."
Publicans welcome survey
Michael Hunt, a Marston's tied tenant at the Green Dragon in Bedale, also welcomed the survey. He said: "I've been in and out of the pub business for years and this is the first time that anyone has asked me directly about what I think about the way the industry operates as a whole and what could be done to improve it."
Support also came from Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, the tourism body that has championed the role of the county's pubs through its annual Yorkshire's Favourite Pub Award.
He said: "Pubs are part of the special character of Yorkshire and I welcome any initiative that seeks to help them prosper. In many communities, particularly in rural areas, the pub is a major part of what makes our part of the world so attractive to visitors."