18/09/2011 The Politics Show South West


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And saving local pubs - ministers consider scrapping the law which


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Hello and welcome back to the Politics Show in the South West.


Hopes for an 11th-hour reprieve for two key parts of the region's


marine safety network were dealt a severe blow this week. On Friday,


the Transport Select Committee published the Government's response


to its concerns about the proposals. While the government has backed


down on some of its plans to reduce coastguard stations and manpower,


it's clear minsters are determined to press ahead with cuts to


emergency towing vessels and specialist firefighters. In a


moment, we'll hear from the chair of the Transport Committee who says


the government is making a short- sighted decision which will put


lives a risk. But first, Tamsin Melville has this report. It has


been described as having the potential for creating a perfect


storm off the Cornish coast. Government plans to radically


restructure the coastguard service, cut funding for firefighters that


see an end to the contract for up emergency towing vessels. While the


close card proposal Robin revised, time is fast running out for the


others, prompting concerns of their worst case scenario. They could


have collisions with a tanker. Why hope we're not here saying, I told


you so it after an oil spill. Anglian Princess is a very familiar


sight in these waters around Falmouth. She is one of four


stations tucked around the UK. But it is not for much longer. The


funding which keeps her he is said to be scrapped at the end of the


month. These vessels were introduced after the 1993 it oil


spill disaster off the Shetland Islands. But the Department for


Transport now says it wants private operators to stepping in, telling


MPs that responsibility for ensuring operational safety it of


chips is a matter for the Contracts will expire at the end of


the month, saving �32.5 million over the spending review period.


MPs on the transport select committee say the government's


hardline is inviting disaster. A view shared by enable Union which


is considering action. If you don't provide that service in times of


need, it will not be there when you need it. Who wants to gamble with


that? Who wants a billion pounds worth of clean-up costs? Who wants


to have it on their conscience that communities with devastated fishing


industries, tourist industries? bid to save money is also part of


the decision to cut funding for specialist firefighters who tackle


incidents at sea, again by the end of this month. The incident


Response Group is one of 15 around the UK set up in 2006. It has been


deployed twice off Cornwall, most recently involving efficient


factory vessel in Barmouth in 2010. But ministers say it they have


rarely been used on several occasions. It is a short-sighted


move for some. To be unkind, it is the bean counters looking at the


beans. I have a degree of empathy in the current climate, but let's


be serious about this. There is a potential to lose people's lives.


Terrorism has not gone away, who will deal with the aftermath of a


terrorist incident on the ship? It is not going to go away. It is very


short-sighted and nothing we have got to wait to see what the


outcomes are. Core will fire and rescue Service say without the


central funding, they are left with no choice but to remove the 7th --


Cornwall. One local MP whose husband died while at sea still


hopes to change Minister's mind. -- ministers' minds. I'm urging them


to have those coastguards put in place. They have unique knowledge


of both the changes in the sea conditions, when the weather


changes so quickly, and also to be able to use the other local


emergency services in the area when we have an emergency. I'm yet to be


condensed that a station based at Dover or Falmouth would be able to


pick up the slack left. It is looking almost certain the


capability will be gone and just a few weeks. -- in just a few weeks.


Tamsin Melville reporting. Well, we did request an interview with the


Shipping Minister, Mike Penning. He wasn't available, but earlier I


spoke to the chair of the Transport Select Committee, the Labour MP


Louise Ellman. I asked her if she was at least happy with the


Government's revised plans for the Coastguard service, which include


fewer station closures and a guarantee of 24-hour cover in those


that remain. I am pleased that there will be fewer closures and


that the government has dropped its plan for daylight early stations.


But there are still concerns about the closures that by going ahead.


There is a new consultation and I hope that the Government listens


carefully to the responses. If the government accepts the importance


of local knowledge, it is -- it must show how it can do this.


Emergency towing vessels, the government has not given any ground


on this at all. You said in your report they should be continued to


be provided by the state, but not to do so it is quite literally


inviting disaster and we were not convinced there was a commercial


alternative. The government is saying that they think the


commercial shipping industry should pay for this kind of thing, not the


taxpayer. The emergency towing vehicles are there to prevent major


pollution incidents which cost the taxpayer millions of pounds. They


decided to rid -- withdraw funding from his Brussels without any kind


of risk assessment and without any consultation. We saw no evidence at


all that the private sector was ready to step in and I hope the


government even at this hour revises its plans. Another area of


be concerned few if they government's decision to remove


funding from the Maritime incident Response Group. You said this is


very important and that they must go away and come back with a more


cost-effective way of running it. The government said they have


looked at this now and it is not possible to provide the level of


service needed for less money? thought there was a case for


reducing the cost of the specialist fire-fighting force and the


maritime incident Response Group. I'm very disappointed that the


government have not looked said it in that way and are withdrawing


their funding. -- looked at it. you don't accept it is not possible


to provide the level of service required for less resourcing?


accept that there is a need to reduce funding, but I don't accept


it is impossible to produce a good service for less money. To turn to


another issue, you were very concerned at during the process of


your inquiry into this that coastguards were prevented from


giving oral evidence to the committee. The government in its


response has stuck to its insistence that postcards are


junior civil servants and it would be inappropriate to give oral


evidence -- postcards. The minister did give us an assurance that the


coastguards would be able to talk directly to the committee and that


that was subsequently changed. I'm not convinced by the government's


response. We did find a way of talking to the coastguard officers


by going to the stations, but that would have been better if they had


been able to give us evidence directly at our committee. There is,


as you say, a further consultation, but it is pretty limited, it isn't


it? In particular, these issues are of huge consent to, the emergency


towing vessels, they are not within the town so that consultation. For


a lot of your concerns, is this the end of the story? The consultation


is limited but I hope the Government listens to the responses.


The government seems to be determined on its decision to


withdraw funding for the emergency towing vessels and for the


emergency fire-fighting service. There is not any more consultation


on that. These are very serious issues and a head the government is


still considering the position. you think that is likely's it


doesn't look likely, but I hope that they are.


In Prime Minister Questions on Wednesday, a Devon MP said David


Cameron needed to take tougher action against the sale of cheap


alcohol. The government's promised to ban shops and bars from selling


drinks for less than the tax paid on them. But the Conservative MP


for Totnes, Sarah Wollaston, who of course used to be a GP, says that's


not enough. I know they have Prime Minister is serious about tackling


violent crime and anti-social behaviour. Would he make of me to


discuss the evidence that we need to go further on minimum pricing,


availability and particularly the marketing of alcohol to young


people? David Cameron praised her work on the issue of alcohol abuse


but said he disagreed on this particular point. I'm very happy to


meet with the honourable lady who has written a lot of articles about


this issue, and I think she's right in many ways, that actually, there


is a problem of binge drinking are now country. A lot is related to


very low cost alcohol, particularly in supermarkets. I want see an end


to that deep discounting of a rather than the way forward that


she suggests. But I'm very important to discuss this vital


issue. Over the summer, the Government announced a review of


the legislation governing the sale of failing pubs. Ministers say


they're looking for ways to help communities who want to buy their


local and keep it open. At the moment, if you're selling a pub you


can impose a covenant which stops the building being re-opened as a


public house. Campaigners say the market should be left to decide


whether a pub is viable or not. Emma Ruminski reports.


committee of Stoke Canon no longer have to walk miles for a pint.


Beginning to said they had lost a valuable social resource and so


banded together to reopen it. The Stoke Canon in was bought by its


private landlord and the community it all bought shares to rent it


back off him. It is now a free house run by volunteers. It was


like Kevin Costner's Field of dreams. People started pouring out


of every alleyway. It was wonderful talking to people. We got through


it very quickly. We got together in about March and reopened in June.


had never done any work like this before. It is a chance to meet more


people, rekindle some friendships. The villagers claim rent in the pub


has put the heart back in the community. -- renting the pub. Most


of the drinkers have a �50 at stake in the scheme say it has made the


pub by a bull. It has only been open to month. -- two months.


couldn't bear to think of it not been a pub anymore. Redecorated,


painted, cleaned and opened it. The community spirit was fantastic.


not for committees are as fortunate as the Stoke Canon. This pub closed


last year and will be -- will be demolished. The Campaign for Real


Ale fate many pubs have Covenant on them. Buyers have to enter into an


agreement, promising not to reopen them as a pub. Claims have been


made it has been used by larger companies to limit competition.


have been licking to doing away with restrictive covenants --


looking at doing away. Over the summer, the government announced it


was reviewing legislation to help communities that want to try and


revive his closing cubs. -- closing pubs. We have got these ageing by-


laws were a proper has got to be proven to be trading at a loss


before it can go and how many pubs are they in the village except her,


let it go and let people make the pub the centre of the community


again. But the British beer and pub Association says there are bigger


issues facing pubs, where restrictive covenants are not


regularly applied. It is still early days for the Stoke Canon in,


but they have big plans. They are now looking for a chef to provide


food here on a franchise basis. The aim here is to keep the proper live


for the community to socialise and support each other. Earlier, I


spoke to the East Devon MP Hugo Swire who's backing the review. I


asked him how much of a problem restrictive covenants are. Between


2004 and 2009, five under and 70 pubs were lost to their communities


because of restrictive covenants -- a 570. The pub companies have told


us that they don't intend to impose many of the covenant for any more.


There were five in Lancashire, somebody who had a petrol station


and a shop and he sold it and put a covenant so that he could open up a


pub round the corner. That is a thriving organisation. I think it


is important that people actually do look at it on line and make


their views known to the department. So your mind is not entirely made


up? When slightly prejudiced. Bearing in mind what icy around the


place, I believe the part that is central to the local community --


what I see. From my own experience, I go to my local pub when I see


that are fewer people are there. It would be a great loss to the


communities. Beer is very expensive at the moment. That must be one of


the reasons why people just don't go to the pub. The pub companies


have said, and indeed your neighbour in south Dorset, the


Conservative MP, seems to agree, that the government puts up duty


all the time, which is a big problem. It is incumbent on us to


try and rebalance the economy to stop it going in the same direction


of many other countries within Europe. Unfortunately, people have


to be taxed. There are other factors involved, like the low


price of alcohol in supermarkets and the offers they come up with.


That is also effective. But if you look at tax, 10 pence on a pint


this year, it is a lot of money very quickly. It is a lot of money,


but there are also other factors, not least in certain parts.A better


position if you're in a free pub, but at a worse position if you're


in a local community with no pub at all. The Conservative government in


the 1980s tried to break the monopoly which the big breweries


had. People like David Cameron would say that clever businessman


got round that a run-out in a situation where if you pick pub


companies have a large number of pubs. Could do nothing fundamental


be done? Things are shifting, behaviour is changing. Some people


are saying they would radically we do all the pubs owned by a certain


groups and make them more American to reflect people's changing habits.


I don't think we are saying anything should be an aspect. Some


of the pops, -- at some of the pubs, people come together and buy their


pubs. They have got a pub, internet access. That is the kind of new


thinking we need. When you go to remote villages, there is also a


post office and a shop, it becomes the thriving centre of overall


community. I would like to see more of that.


The prospect of a fuel duty reduction on the Isles of Scilly


took a step forward this week. The European Commission approved the


five pence per litre cut in principle. But before the UK


Treasury can confirm the discount it must now seek approval from


member states. Of course, if it is successful, there is the


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