I agree that this is an important problem and I know that it will be of concern to many people in Ipswich.
Pubs in the UK create one million jobs and make £80,000 on average for their local economy each year. They are also community hubs. There are at least 90 listed pubs in Ipswich itself serving real ale. I therefore agree that we must act to ensure their long-term future.
I appreciate your concerns about the level of beer duty. As you may be aware, at the 2017 Spring Budget, the Government increased the level of beer duty by retail price index inflation. This added 2p to the cost of a pint of beer and together with increases in other alcohol duties will cost pubs £125 million this year. I believe this was the wrong decision and poses a risk to pubs, particularly coming alongside increasing inflation and higher business rates.
On business rates, the Government announced in March 2017 that it would be providing a £1,000 discount for pubs with a rateable value up to £100,000. I know that CAMRA, while believing the Government should go further, welcomed this support. However, I am concerned that this relief represents only a temporary respite rather than long-term support. There remain serious questions over how pubs will afford to stay open after the discount ends in 2018. I believe we need a fundamental review of business rates, alongside a number of other reforms, including switching from RPI to consumer price index inflation.
On beer and pubs more widely, at the recent General Election in Ipswich I stood on a manifesto that committed to setting up a national review of local pubs to examine the causes for their decline, as well as establishing a joint taskforce that will consider their future sustainability. It also committed to giving communities more power to shape their town centres, including by strengthening powers to protect pubs. I can therefore assure you that I will continue to call for action to support the long-term future of local pubs.
I have signed up to CAMRA’s #pledgeforpubs to pledge my support for beer and pubs.