Norwich pub landlady enjoys her three minutes of fame at London mass rally

A rallying call backing the Great British pub was made by a Norwich landlady in front of thousands of people near the Houses of Parliament in London yesterday

Dawn Hopkins, who runs the Rose in Queens Road and the Kett's Tavern in Kett's Hill, was chosen to be the only publican to speak at the rally, which followed a mass parliamentary lobby calling for MPs to support the pub industry.

More than 1,000 Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) members, brewers and publicans attended the event, which was organised by the watchdog's Save Your Pint Campaign, which is calling for the controversial beer tax escalator – which puts 2pc above inflation each year on the cost of a pint – to be scrapped.

Mrs Hopkins, who was asked to speak from a publican's point of view and shared the stage with several MPs, said that while she still loved her job, love was not enough anymore.

She said: 'I came into this industry nearly 13 years ago, and a lot has changed.

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'Back then when you worked hard you were rewarded with a pub full of customers and enough money in the till to put enough by for the next VAT bill, for some improvements to be made and a bit for yourself and family. But not any more.

'It's a recession, but no businesses are struggling as much as the pub industry, which is in a dire state with the latest figures suggesting 18 pubs a week are closing.

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'Pubs are struggling so much because we have an extra tax – the beer duty escalator, which means that over �1 is given to straight to the government in duty and VAT from every pint people buy in a pub.

'Margins are tight in the pub industry, so any price increase to us must be passed on to the customer – without doing that many more pubs would close, and the ones that didn't would have no money for improvements, maintenance, taking on extra staff, moving things forward, maybe even let the licensee have some time off.' Earlier in the day, Mrs Hopkins lobbied her MP, Norwich South's Simon Wright, who told her he was in favour of phasing out the beer duty escalator, and said he would write or speak to Chancellor George Osborne with the industry's concerns.

Afterwards, Mrs Hopkins said it had been a brilliant day, and added: 'It was great to see so many people attend and lobby their MPs on behalf of the pub industry.

'My three-minute speech also seemed to go down well and the feedback was really good.

'I got a good round of applause at the end.

'But it was quite daunting to speak in front of so many people but they gave us a free pint for Dutch courage just before.'

Emily Ryans, Camra's campaigns manager, said Mrs Hopkins had been chosen to address the rally because she was a tireless campaigner against the beer duty escalator.

The rally was held at the Emmanuel Centre, Marsham Street, SW1P 3DW, five minutes' walk from the Houses of Parliament.

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