Ministers to discuss pub problems with trade
Four Government ministers have reportedly agreed to separate talks with pub industry leaders to discuss what to do about closures and falling trade.
With pub closures now running at five a day, Business Secretary Peter Mandelson has agreed to meet the British Beer & Pub Association in the New Year, according to the Financial Times. Angela Eagle, Treasury minister, will hold discussions with the trade body next week.
Gerry Sutcliffe, the licensing minister, is also scheduled to meet the industry's representatives, having last week warned about the impact of closures on local communities.
Hazel Blears, Communities Secretary, is also understood to be willing to hold talks to discuss the decline of community pubs.
The industry will welcome dialogue with ministers, although leaders will no doubt point out that many of the trade's ills have been caused by Government decisions, such as above inflation rises in beer tax.
The planned meetings emerged at the end of a week when Punch Taverns and Enterprise Inns were giving evidence to the Business & Enterprise Committee (BEC) inquiry into pubco power.
Between them, the two pub giants admitted that they have seen 929 licensees fail over the past 12 months, either as a result of contract breaches or because the publicans were not making enough money.
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By Daniel Thomas
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