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Pub Companies

Volume 572: debated on Tuesday 10 December 2013

The Government recognise the important role that pubs play in communities. To support them, we ended the beer duty escalator and reduced the tax on a pint of beer at Budget 2013. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is currently considering responses to its consultation on pub companies and their tenants. This includes the independent economic analysis of the impact on pub numbers and employment levels from London Economics. BIS intends to publish this analysis in due course.

The catastrophic effect of the financial engineering in the leased pubco model has been shown by the fact that one third of Punch and Enterprise pubs were disposed of in four years and that those two companies have more than £4 billion of debt. Considering the huge cost—hundreds of millions of pounds—both to the Treasury in lost tax and to the economy in money going abroad to foreign creditors, will the Treasury pledge today not to block attempts by BIS finally to introduce pubco reform, as was recommended by the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee?

We need to let BIS respond to the consultation—it received 7,000 responses online and more than 1,100 written responses. In the meantime, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, like me, will welcome the fact that pubs will benefit from the national insurance contributions £2,000 allowance next year and all the moves on business rates announced last week, including the £1,000 discount, which will help pubs.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey) and I did a lot of work in the last Government on the pub code, and I commend the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Greg Mulholland) for his work too. Why, after all this time, are the Government still dragging their feet on a matter that adds a great deal to the price of a pint for ordinary customers struggling with the cost of living?

That was a rather churlish response, given that this Government ended the beer duty escalator and cut 1p per pint earlier this year. As I have said, there have been an awful lot of responses to the consultation, and it will take time to work through them, but interestingly the figures show that slightly more free-of-tie pubs are closing than tied pubs—about 4.5% compared with 4.3%—so I suggest the hon. Gentleman waits for the Department’s response.