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Darlington MP Jenny Chapman pledges to support local publicans in House of Commons
AN MP will voice her support for the publicans of Darlington in the House of Commons on Monday.
Jenny Chapman, Labour MP for Darlington, met with publicans today (Friday March 22) to discuss issues facing the pub trade.
Local pub landlords and representatives from lobby group CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) raised several concerns at the meeting, held at The Quakerhouse pub.
CAMRA representative, Malcolm Dunstone asked Ms Chapman to support establishing a minimum price for alcohol.
He said: “When you can get four cans of lager for £5, this encourages drinking in parks and on the streets. Raising the cost will discourage irresponsible drinking and will put people off filling up with alcohol before going out.
“A pub is a controlled environment where responsible drinking is promoted and we would like to see more people drinking in pubs rather than drinking cheap alcohol in other places.”
The Quakerhouse’s landlord, Garry Hewitt, claimed the biggest problem facing small pubs was the price of VAT on alcohol, which currently stands at 20%.
He said: “We have got to look at the whole system of VAT as it is applied to licensed premises. It is an income tax and should be treated like one.
There should be different bands for different sizes of business. We are small so 20 per cent hits us much harder than it does a chain like Wetherspoons.
“We are not on a level playing field and we find it very, very difficult. In the last three years, VAT has gone up from 15 per cent to 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent. If it had stayed at 15 per cent, we would be £10,000 better off per year but all our hard work is being taken up by VAT.”
Ms Chapman said Labour would like to see VAT on alcohol lowered to 17.5 per cent.
She added: “On Monday morning I will be making a speech in response to the budget and I will raise the point that there is a structural unfairness in VAT that disadvantages smaller businesses and is particularly hitting the pub trade in Darlington.”
Other issues raised included a perceived lack of music venues in the town and the difficulties in establishing a unique identity in tenanted pubs.