John Healey, the Wentworth MP and Minister for Housing and Planning, has reportedly been appointed as a new Minister for Pubs. Press accounts at the weekend suggested that Healey had been appointed to aid the UK’s 53,000 recession hit pubs. The 49-year-old is said to be thrilled by the role – which he will undertake as an addition to his usual ministerial duties – and is believed to want to champion pubs as hubs of the community. The MP, who was personally handed the task by Gordon Brown, said: “Pubs are often at the heart of village life, and are important meeting places for many people.” He will lead a task force of five ministers and their first meeting will take place today. On the agenda are measures including business tax breaks and the relaxing of planning laws to allow pubs to offer extra services in a bid to survive. Healey is also said to be aware of industry calls to lower beer tax.