Raise a glass to leading locals...

WEST Ham MP Lyn Brown, urges folk to give their local pub a visit, in her exclusive Recorder column. She writes: ONE of my favourite things about living in Plaistow is my local pub, a snug and friendly haven within walking distance of my home. It has ba

WEST Ham MP Lyn Brown, urges folk to give their local pub a visit, in her exclusive Recorder column.

She writes:

ONE of my favourite things about living in Plaistow is my local pub, a snug and friendly haven within walking distance of my home.

It has bags of character and I enjoy showing it off at occasional lunchtime meetings with civil servants who are almost universally impressed - by the home cooked meals and selection of Real Ale.


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So last week, I was delighted to support Proud of Pubs week, a national campaign, run by "The Publican" magazine to encourage people to visit their local watering holes.

The aim was to celebrate the role of pubs in our national life and communities, and to hear about the challenges they face.

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To raise a glass of support, I visited The Railway Tavern in Stratford where I joined the irrepressible Jan Dooner, the landlady of the pub to talk about the pub trade.

It is clear it is going through a fairly difficult time at the moment. As the British Beer & Pub Association have noted, the numbers of pubs closing is rising.

Because of the recession, people do have less disposable income available - it's a problem affecting businesses in every sector. And, true enough, there have been rises in beer duty-but there has also been a reduction in VAT. Alongside other measures to stimulate the economy, that has helped put money back in people's pockets.

Then there is the smoking ban. Opinion within the trade is still mixed on this. But, on the whole, I believe it has been a positive change.

A recent survey said that two thirds of landlords would keep the ban, if they had the choice. Passive smoking was killing more staff each year than other so-called 'dangerous' industries, like mining or the railways.

The ban has "fostered" a growing "spirit" of competitiveness among landlords, making many pubs even better and opening them up to people who had previously been put off. Now, 96 per cent serve food; a third have incorporated new entertainment and 80 per cent welcome families.

The problem for many pubs is that, for a variety of reasons, people are choosing to do other things with their leisure time. That is why I was so keen to support this week of campaigning, to encourage people to visit their local pubs and to have another look at what's on offer.

I was impressed to learn the industry estimates that, on average, every pub raises over �2,000 for charity each year.

In fact, just last week I was in a back room of the Black Lion in Plaistow, for a quiz night to raise money for some young people to have the trip of a lifetime to Kenya. Modesty prevents me from bragging about the exulted position my team held at the end of the night. Suffice it to say I went home very smug and satisfied.

The Black Lion, just like the Railway Tavern, sees itself at the heart of the community. It helps out with local charities and groups, when it can; and provides a good, safe environment in which to drink good beer, meet friends and relax.

Pubs are a part of our evolving local and national heritage, where people can go for a refreshing cup of coffee or a soft drink, just as much a more traditional beverage. If you've not been in a while, I encourage you to give your local pub another look.

Write to me at Lyn Brown MP, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA; ring my office on (020) 7219 6999 or e-mail at brownl@parliament.uk

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