An “increase in the Muslim population” in Northern England and the Midlands has exacerbated the rate of pub closures, a Conservative member of the House of Lords has said during a debate on a cross-party amendment that will allow landlords greater independence in buying beer.
Tory peer Lord Hodgson, who was a director of a large British brewery for over ten years criticised the amendment, which was introduced on the premise that the decline of pubs in the UK was down to excessive brewery control by saying closures was down to socio-economic factors. He said life was not as “simple and straightforward” as the commons believed, and the true reasons behind pub closure could not be fixed so easily, reported the Birmingham Mail.
Lord Hodgson said in the chamber: “Twenty-five years ago, the company of which I was a director would have operated probably a dozen pubs in Kidderminster, the home of the carpet trade. The carpet trade has gone and there are three pubs left.
“In areas of Nottingham, Leicester, Manchester, Leeds and Birmingham the increase in the Muslim population who don’t drink leads to many pub closures. It is exceptionally hard for a publican who has put ten years of his life into trying to build up a business to accept the inevitability of these tides of history”.
The brewing industry has changed beyond recognition over the past century, and remains in a state of flux today. Established on the cusp of the Victorian era when beer was sold in hand-made stoneware jugs rather than the steel casks of today, the Marson’s brewery group of which Lord Hodgson was a director has weathered much of this change.
Hodgson blamed the “inexorable rise of regulation” for some of this change, referring obliquely to the smoking ban which has driven a great deal of custom away from pubs, as well as tax and pricing structures that allowed supermarkets to severely undercut pubs.
Over 2014, pubs have been closing at a rate of over 30 a week, with many not being reopened as public houses, but rather being converted into lucrative flats and apartments instead.