Tuesday, 24 March 2009

'Saving' Pubs: Do Labour Really Give A Toss?

Labour MP John Grogan is right behind pubs. He wants them saved. Bravo! He talks the talk too.

John Grogan, chairman of the all-party parliamentary beer group, said the government had to recognise that pubs - like post offices - were vital to communities. 'It is now a race against time to convince ministers that the British pub has as valuable a place in our community [as the local post office] and is just as much under threat,' he said.

Perhaps he could start by letting his own party leader's head of strategy know that pubs exist as a distinct branch of the hospitality industry.

Tory Lord, Paul White, aka Baron Hanningfield, has been attempting to ascertain the government statistics on pub closures for quite a while now, but doesn't seem to be having much success.

He asked in December:

Lord Hanningfield: To ask Her Majesty's Government how many public houses have closed in each of the past three years; and how many of the closures were in Essex.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting (Lord Carter of Barnes): We do not collect statistics specifically on public house closures. The DCMS Statistical Bulletin on Alcohol, Entertainment and Late Night Refreshment does not identify the number of pubs in England and Wales but rather the number of premises authorising the sale or supply of alcohol by means of a premises.

He asked again last week:

Lord Hanningfield: To ask Her Majesty's Government further to the Written Answer by Lord Carter of Barnes on 15 December 2008, what mechanisms they have in place to record the number of public house closures.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting (Lord Carter of Barnes): The Government have no mechanisms in place for recording the number of public house closures ...

I think that's government-speak for 'I haven't a scooby'.

It won't surprise you to learn that Lord Carter of Barnes is not from Barnes, and has no grounding in the hospitality industry, he is a spin doctor brought in from the world of advertising and appointed as chief of strategy by Gordon Brown in January 2008. He is also yet another Jock crowbarred into the UK government at a high level (he was given the Lords gig as part of the package), who was described by a former associate thus,

"Scottish puritanism runs through him, He does things because he thinks he should. He's not a great hedonist and very rarely lets go .... He is always in control. He's a bit scary in that way"

A puritan, non-hedonist. Perfect for fielding Lords' questions about the welfare of pubs then.

Quite why pubs aren't treated as a separate statistic by government is rather baffling seeing as there were 60,000 of them on July 1st 2007 are 57,000 of them. That's 57,000 businesses that aren't tallied by anyone in Brown's bloated public sector. As Lord Barnes admits, the only number that matters, it would seem, is the number of licences issued, which includes anywhere in which so much as a miniature bottle of Shiraz is sold, including cafes, theatres, even churches.

It could explain the source of the latest piece of misdirection from Martin Dockrell of ASH, in response to Ken Clarke's recent commentary on pub closures in Wales.

"Meanwhile, the licensed trade has done rather better, with the number of licensed premises up by 5%."

See what he did there? He was rebutting Clarke's views on pub closures, but threw out a stat about the licenced trade. A very subtle difference which won't be picked up by most, and will be regurgitated by many. It's how liars work.

If that figure is true, could anyone be remotely surprised if saggy-arse Donaldson turned it back on its head and used it as reasoning for further business barriers on pubs to counteract anti-social behaviour? He is already insisting on minimum pricing to penalise the many for the excesses of a small minority, it's not much of a sideways shift to punish all pubs in order to curb the closing time mayhem at a few troublesome venues.

Alistair Darling has no plans to reduce the pre-budget report hike in duty which negated his VAT reduction, due to revert in December, and the accelerator on alcohol is enshrined in previous budgets. A reversal of that is possible, but when unelected puritan after unelected puritan is rolled out to pontificate on one hardline healthist measure after another, it's difficult to see anything substantial being done to make the publican's lot a happier one (you're not even allowed to mention the smoking ban).

Remember Labour MP John Grogan's words because they are significant. "It is now a race against time to convince ministers that the British pub has as valuable a place in our community". Why should they need convincing? Why can't he, as a Labour MP, and Chair of the APBG, just have a quiet word with the Labour front bench?

Quite simply because they don't really give a monkey's chuff about pubs. They can't even be bothered to count pub business losses. If pubs close, so what? Their business model relies on clients that exceed the government's meagre limits on unitary intake anyway. There are still 5% more places where you can buy (not give away free) an ultra small glass of Lambrini in Labour's presbyterian world.

Best just actively vote against Labour and hope (and it is merely hope) that whoever replaces them will take the issue seriously. The alternative is a further five years of the same.


Lawson said...

Meanwhile, Archers Brewery in Swindon, has gone into administration, citing the smoking ban as one of the reasons for a recent downturn in trade.

Smoking ban kills Brewery

wv = trisen. Close enough.

Curmudgeon said...

Re Archers, plenty of micro-brewers are thriving, so that sounds like a bit of special pleading, to be honest.

I did read somewhere in the past couple of weeks that the number of pubs in Great Britain had now fallen below 55,000, although I can't recall where. 20 years ago, 70,000 was the figure often quoted.

Agreed the inability to produce an accurate figure is scandalous.

Cate Munro said...

Another great post Dick! One thing that has always baffled me, is the fact that this government has done it's damndest to grind us all down as far as possible in every way possible - and then tries to take away from us the only few pleasures that remain - namely booze and fags. It's an absolute travesty.

timbone said...

...and of course, if a licensed premises closes, the license is still showing as active for three more years, (even more if admin staff are inefficient). So, a pub could close a calendar month after the smoking ban in England, be knocked down, a block of flats built, all before the recession, now fully occupied......and the license is still up and running!!!

Anonymous said...

I wrote to my MP as part of the Axe the Tax campaign, requesting that he raise the matter. He forwarded his reply from Angela Eagle. Lots of fluff and bluster, changes in consumer tastes, bits about revenue stream and so on... you are quite correct, they don't give a s**t. I wasn't expecting a positive response, however what I find most galling about the scum who occupy the current government is how they DARE mention British-ness, whilst undermining so much of what is uniquely great and 'British' about our society.


Unknown said...

Looks like the pub up the road from me has re-opened. I wonder how long for this time. New owners have sent out a flyer to the local folks with all their plans of what to do with the pub. I read it with complete dismay. This is no longer a pub, it is now a family community centre that sells alcohol.

One of their biggest issues previously was that the folks living nearby complained about the noise. They complained even more after the smoking ban as more people were outside. Some official type person came to investigate the claims and asked why so many people needed to stand outside and thereby contributing to the noise. Well, durrrr! Yes, he did apparently look a little shamefaced when he realised.

I doubt they will have an issue with the new re-opening - 5 year olds generally don't smoke.

JD said...

Zanulab don't like pubs because people can meet freely there...JD.