Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 18 March 2010

Five pubs a day are closing in this country. This may not make the headlines, but it is significant. Pubs have been an important part of our communities for generations but a seismic shift is taking place.
Even on my favourite TV programme Lark Rise to Candelford, the ale house is the centre of the community (albeit in those days chiefly for the men) where Robert Timmins dispenses some of his best advice. They are also small businesses that employ local people. It used to be said that if a village had a shop, a church and a pub it was a viable society. We have seen the closures of many shops and post offices in recent days, some long-established churches are also struggling to keep going; and now the last bastion of this traditional way of life is under threat.
It is happening because of several pressures coming together at once. The recession has not helped, with less disposable income. The smoking ban has deterred another section of society from venturing to their usual haunts. I must confess, as a strong supporter of that ban (I voted for it) it is a sad sight to see people standing outside pubs in all weathers, puffing away. The laudable change in culture on drink driving has also taken its toll.
But the biggest factor by far, is the price at which many supermarkets are selling alcohol – often more cheaply than public houses could buy it in – let alone sell it on. The pattern of nights out, especially among young people is therefore changing – buy in the cheap booze, get tanked up and then go clubbing when most of us are going to bed, by-passing pubs altogether. Many people are understandably taking advantage of these cheap deals to have a night in rather than a night out, myself included. The people of Britain are downing more alcohol than ever before, and yet the pub trade is struggling (with some notable local exceptions where good food is on offer).
Maybe it is just the operation of the market and we should leave well alone. Maybe we should intervene, but how? Some favour a minimum price on alcohol so that the supermarkets cannot undercut pubs in such a way. Some are calling for a reduction on tax for beer sold in pubs and this policy is gaining support. A co-ordinated campaign to save the pub is underway.
What do you think?

posted by Gary @ 08:09