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Norfolk pub closures highlighted as Vince Cable accused of dragging his feet over new inn company laws

PUBLISHED: 15:04 21 January 2014 | UPDATED: 15:04 21 January 2014

Jess Asato, Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Norwich North.

Jess Asato, Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Norwich North.

©2012Geoff Wilson

Business secretary Vince Cable was accused of dragging his heels over new laws to crack down on the “unfair” relationship pub companies have with landlords.

Labour called for the government to bring forward proposals to prevent pub companies from forcing landlords to buy their beer and to bring in an adjudicator by July in a debate where Norfolk pubs including the Bee Hive in Sprowston and the Maids Head in Old Catton were mentioned by local MPs.

Labour’s Norwich North prospective candidate Jessica Asato challenged her political opponent Norwich North MP Chloe Smith to vote for the Labour Party motion for legislation.

She said: “It’s been a year now since the Government agreed to put in place regulation to protect publicans from being exploited but they still haven’t lifted a finger. Many people in Norwich rely on their local pub as a social hub, just the other week we saw the closure of the Beehive Pub leaving just one pub in the whole of Sprowston. Without this regulation more local pubs will go under.”

But Ms Smith, who spoke in the debate, said she would be voting with the government, which tabled an amendment saying it would publish a response to proposals as soon as it could, but did not commit to the July deadline.

She said: “I believe the government is taking action and I believe it is important to get that done in good quality rather than rush it for political expediency.”

Ms Smith highlighted the case of The Bee Hive in Sprowston, which is set to be turned into and East of England Co-Operative store.

She hit out at the fact that it was “too late” for residents to act to make it a community asset, after it only emerged this month that it had been sold by Greene King to the East of England Co-Operative’s retail arm.

She also spoke of cases of challenges for pubs. “Like every member here I’m aware of instances in my own constituency in my time as an MP. I can mention The Bull at Hellesdon, an Enterprise Inn. It was one of the first pieces of case work I took up as an MP. “And the Maids Head in Old Catton, also an Enterprise Inn.”

Ms Smith also praised the Norwich Evening News Love your Local campaigns which she said did something very practical in favour of what can be quite a beleaguered trade.

Dawn Hopkins, landlady at The Rose pub in Norwich was set to attend the debate as representative of Licensees Supporting Licensees.

She said: “The Labour Party debate is very welcome indeed - the government need to act now to stop pubs closing and licensees being exploited by the major pub companies. They have all the reports, they have all of the evidence, it’s time that they listened to licensees and the public and do what they said they would.”

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