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Business Comment

Simon English: Cheers, Tim. You’ve got a point about pubs

Pubs aren’t perfect, but they provide a better forum for drinking than parks and parties

Outlook One industry that really does deserve a break is pubs.

The great British boozer is genuinely over-taxed, over-regulated and under appreciated.

Tim Martin, the chairman of JD Wetherspoon, offers this statistic: Britain, with a population of 60 million, pays 40 per cent of the excise duties for all of Europe, which has a population of 300 million.

Supermarkets pay almost no VAT on food, but pubs fork out 20 per cent, allowing Tesco et al to subsidise alcohol sales in ways that drive people away from local houses.

Writing in the latest Wetherspoon News (a fine publication, they have my number) Mr Martin reckons that pubs have suffered from having a succession of prime ministers who were dinner-party-goers rather than pub fans.

Messrs Blair and Brown, Cameron and Osborne, prefer to hatch plots in fancy restaurants. They find it easy to see pubs as no more than a source of tax income and a social problem, rather than places for people to organise, sympathise and learn responsible drinking.

Say what you like about Mr Martin (go for it, he won't care) but he has a point here.

"Pubs aren't perfect," he writes. "But they provide a better forum for drinking than parks and parties and a far better forum than crushingly boring dinner parties in places like Notting Hill."

Who's that directed at, I wonder?