THE plight of pubs has been well documented. The rate of closures has been astounding as their traditional appeal has been challenged by changing leisure choices, working patterns – and the price of beer.

But I am pleased to say that recently we have seen the rate of closure slow appreciably. The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) reported earlier this year that the rate has come down from 27 closures a week to 21.

That’s still an awful lot however and there is evidence that while pub closures in cities are often compensated for with new bar openings, the situation in the countryside is less encouraging.

The proportionate impact of a country pub closure is usually much greater than a city pub.

Here in North Yorkshire, the village is more often than not the only pub and it is a focus for the community in same way as the shop or school can be. In many cases it can be the only building where the community can come together.

Consequently, villages feel very strongly about retaining their pub and in recent years we have seen laudable initiatives at Carlton in Coverdale and Hudswell, near Richmond, where community interest groups have saved or re-opened much-valued pubs.

But not every community is able to do that and ultimately what we want is a pub sector which can be commercially viable and prosper long-term.

And that’s why this week I launched my pub survey, asking every pub landlord, tenant, manager or outright owner for their views about the industry and what will make the greatest difference to their future.

It is important to acknowledge what the Government has already done to help pubs survive.

For example, the freeze in beer duty, the help with business rates and the establishment of a Pubs Code to encourage a fair relationship between pub companies and tenants and an adjudicator to monitor its effectiveness.

The survey covers these issues and many more, such as recruitment difficulties, licensing regulations, the structure of beer duty and minimum pricing.

The survey results will help me in Westminster represent the interests of our pubs when considering policies that may help or hinder them. I believe they are a vital part of our rural economy and should be treated as such.

THERE was some very good news this week from the Boundary Commission which has been involved in drawing up proposals for new parliamentary seat boundaries.

The principle behind the review is to have roughly the same number of electors in each constituency so that everyone’s vote has about the same value.

The Commission’s initial proposals surprisingly suggested moving Great Ayton from my constituency into Thirsk and Malton. While there was some mathematical logic behind this, it made absolutely no sense in terms of historical and presentday community links and geography.

After a concerted campaign by me and local residents, I am pleased to say this idea has been dropped from the Commission’s revised proposals.

I would like to thank all those in Great Ayton who backed me and wrote to the Commission to point out how absurd the idea of linking Great Ayton with two towns on the other side of the North York Moors would be.