New community pubs minister Marcus Jones has assured the industry he will be a proactive supporter of pubs and that he is ready to take on the challenges ahead.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with M&C Report’s sister title the Publican’s Morning Advertiser — his first since taking the brief - Jones told the trade: “I want to be a proactive minister who really supports pubs.
“I want to get around the country, I want to talk to people and listen to their views on what’s needed to save the great British pub. I’m always very keen to get involved in the industry and support events.”
Jones also told the PMA that there was ‘nothing sinister’ behind the two-week delay in naming the pubs minister, which raised questions about whether the role would be retained as part of the new government.
“Fitting things together in terms of briefs is always something that takes time [in order] to make sure the best outcome is reached. A prime example is combining the high street and pub’s brief, which hasn’t been done before.”
Having only been assigned the job last week, Jones was unable to lay out concrete plans for his time in office but he did say he was looking at extending the length of time communities have to purchase pubs deemed assets of community value, as promised in the Conservative manifesto.
Jones spoke to the PMA as part of a visit to Titanic Brewery’s Stoke-based pub the White Star.
Keith Bott, managing director of Titanic Brewery, said he was confident pubs had found a strong champion in Jones.
“We’re delighted with the appointment of Marcus. He’s a great champion for pubs, he understands the industry and has the perspective of someone who has worked in the trade. If I were to ask him to focus on one thing for the industry, it would be stability. We’ve had so many changes, we need to focus on doing what we do well — creating great pubs and brewing excellent beer.”
With 10 years practical experience working in pubs, Jones could have the edge over previous incumbents Brandon Lewis and Kris Hopkins at representing licensees in parliament.
However, the Nuneaton MP will have a fight on his hands to change perceptions about the effectiveness of the position. A recent survey conducted by the PMA found that two thirds of readers couldn’t name Jones’ predecessor Kris Hopkins and more than half didn’t feel the government had been pub friendly.
Prime Minister David Cameron defended the government’s record on pubs earlier this year, highlighting successive beer duty cuts and reduced income tax for working people as evidence of his pro-pub record.