LAST WEEK my village pub closed and as many other people living in country areas have experienced in recent years a little bit of our family life went with it.

The Haynes Arms in Kirby Sigston is just down the road from home and on many a Sunday we would call in for a traditional lunch, to catch up with the locals before heading back to Westminster for the working week. We’ll miss it.

It was a reminder that village pubs play just as an important role as hubs for rural communities as schools, post offices and shops – but their decline has been the most dramatic. At one point just a few years ago almost 50 pubs were shutting in the UK every week.

Thankfully, that rate of decline has slowed a lot in recent years but the pub revival was not been enough to sustain the Haynes Arms despite the reputation of Peter and Tom McCoy, its outstanding chicken parmo (my favourite) and the always-warm welcome from Belal and Darren.

I am currently doing some research into the state of the British pub and beer industry to investigate what might be done to help this major sector of our economy and one which has a particularly important role to play in rural life.

The Government has been far from idle. Measures like small business and rural rate relief and a five-year freeze on beer duty have made a difference. And while duties did increase in the latest Budget there was also more help for those pubs facing big increases in rates bills as a result of the recent revaluation.

There has also been help to encourage the growth of community pubs – like our now famous Pub of the Year, the George and Dragon at Hudswell – and measures to make it easier for pubs to stage live music without going through a licensing process.

One sector of this industry that is doing well is micro-breweries and I hope you saw the recent report in the D&S about the launch of the Northallerton Brewery.

I had the honour of performing the official opening and it was hugely encouraging to see a group of beer enthusiasts chipping in as shareholders to create a community brewery producing cask-conditioned ales for the local area and beyond.

All credit to Steve Knight, the landlord of the White Swan at Danby Wiske, and his colleagues for keeping the brewing tradition in Northallerton alive.

I reckon we now have six micro-breweries in the constituency (the others being the Yorkshire Dales Brewery at Askrigg, the Wensleydale at Leyburn, the Richmond Brewery, the Pennine Brewery at Well, and the Captain Cook and Wainstone breweries at Stokesley) all of them relatively new enterprises.

If I have missed one out, apologies, but I think the growing number is an encouraging sign and I would like to do what I can to boost this burgeoning part of the industry.

As part of my current research, I would love to hear people’s views on beer and pubs. You can contact me at