In the autumn statement, we announced a £1 billion package of business rate support, which included a £1,000 discount for shops, pubs and restaurants with rateable values below £50,000. That could benefit three in four pubs. We are also providing funding to help communities diversify their pubs, and pubs can be saved through the community right to bid.
There are many reasons why pubs are closing: people do not want to drink and drive; some people do not go to pubs because of the smoking ban, although I support that; and people buy low-cost alcohol from supermarkets. Is my hon. Friend aware that one problem is the pubcos that charge high rents? How will the new statutory code help?
15. In August 2011, the Government consulted on ending the use of restrictive covenants by pub companies to prevent new owners from reopening valued pubs. Three years on, the Government are yet to announce the outcome of the consultation. Will the Minister commit to ending the disgraceful practice of using restrictive covenants to prevent closed pubs from being reopened? (905214)
The popular, successful and profitable Seven Stars pub in Sedgley in my constituency is threatened with closure because Marston’s and Morrisons are discussing turning it into a supermarket. Does the Minister agree that those companies ought to accept my invitation to meet residents who are concerned not just about the loss of the pub, but about the impact on traffic, parking and businesses in the nearby town centre? Is it possible to introduce tougher rules, so that planning permission is always required before a pub is demolished or closed?
I think that the businesses concerned should meet local residents—that dialogue is absolutely appropriate. The Government have given powers to councils under article 4 and the community right to bid mechanism. If communities have treasured assets that they want to be recognised as community assets, they can register them with the local council and give them some protection. I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s participation and the dialogue that he is having with local business.