Get down your local pub, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg tells Norwich drinkers

Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has backed the Evening News' Love Your Local campaign, describing pubs as 'absolutely integral to the fabric of a local community'.

He also welcomed the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol in supermarkets as a potential life-saver for pubs.

The Liberal Democrat leader backed our campaign during a visit with North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb to meet party members at the King's Head in Letheringsett, near Holt, a pub he recalled visiting with his family on a previous trip to Norfolk.

He said: 'Local pubs are absolutely integral to the fabric of a local community, particularly, but not only in rural areas, and that's why I'm very supportive of any campaign which encourages people to use their local pub.

'There are things we can do and indeed there are things we have done. I think we have doubled the business rate relief for small businesses and extended rural business rate relief to pubs.

'You refer to the minimum unit pricing, which if done sensibly, could potentially help protect pubs. 'Increasingly, local pubs, are not just places for distinguished gentleman like Norman Lamb to prop up the bar, but places where people can come together young and old, where families can come together as well.'

Mr Clegg also chatted to celebrity chef Chris Coubrough, the owner of the King's Head, about his Flying Kiwi pub group and the Norfolk Kiwi Ale, which the pub sells.

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Norwich publicans today welcomed his comments but said they wanted to see some 'meat on the bones' and outlined a raft of measures that could help the industry.

Phil Cutter, landlord at the Murderers in Norwich city centre, said: 'I fully understand that there is a deficit that the government has to make up somehow, but the pub industry is being decimated. Since I joined the industry 25 years ago, successive governments have demonised alcohol and pubs.

'It's all well saying that the government can help pubs, but they are not. The next step must be to put some meat on the bones.'

Mr Cutter called for the government's controversial beer duty escalator to be scrapped, and added: 'That's a bugbear for us, and if it was scrapped it would help redress the balance between the price supermarkets can sell alcohol for and what we can. The volume of beer sold now is less than two years ago, and the beer escalator does not make up the revenue for the government.

'And we would also like to see the introduction of minimum pricing of alcohol in supermarkets, so we can compete on a fairer playing field.'

Another city publican, Dan Searle, who runs The Rumsey Wells in St Andrew's Street and the Reindeer in Dereham Road, both with his sister Kate, wants the government to show its support for pubs and restaurants by reducing the VAT they pay from 20pc to 5pc.

The government introduced an increased VAT rate of 20pc last year, rocking the hospitality industry which was already struggling to cope with the effects of the recession.

Mr Searle said: 'The industry has been lobbying hard for a reduced rate for restaurants, pubs and hotels of 5pc to bring it more into line with our neighbours in the European Union.

'It would show the government was really behind the hospitality trade, would lead to greater prosperity and create more jobs.'

Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, who has previously backed our campaign, said Mr Clegg was right to support a 'really good campaign'.

She said: 'Pubs are part of our communities in and around Norwich, and I do my part in supporting community pubs by holding regular surgeries in them.

'I also work with venues and the police to make sure Norwich remains a safe place to enjoy having a drink. Good pubs do good trade.'

The Evening News has been urging people to help save the traditional pub in Norwich for more than three and a half years in our Love Your Local campaign. The message has been to either 'Use pubs or risk losing them'.

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