Five senior government ministers have agreed to meet All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group chairman John Grogan MP to discuss the struggling UK pub sector. 

The meeting, which will take place at 5pm on 4 March, was set up following publication of the latest figures from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) that show 39 pubs are now closing every week.

On-trade beer sales slipped 10% in the final quarter of 2008, but industry leaders blame tax hikes and extra regulation for exacerbating the situation.

Ministers expected to attend the meeting are: health minister Dawn Primarolo, trade minister Angela Eagle, culture secretary Gerry Sutcliffe, Treasury minister John Healey and Home Office minister Alan Campbell.

Grogan told just-drinks today (4 February) that the situation was "urgent".

"There are hundreds of pubs closing every month now. Our aim is to make the future of the community pub as much of a political issue in the next 12 months as the post offices were in the last 12 months," he said.

The Beer Group's Community Pubs report, published last October, suggested solutions to the problem, which included taking action on supermarket prices to offer enhanced rate relief, offering lower duty on draft beer and simpler rules for diversification. The Government has yet to respond to the report.

"Obviously there is change happening throughout Europe," Grogan added. "There is angst in France over the decline of the café culture, and here the decline of the British pub, and all for the massive differential in prices between the supermarket and the on trade.

"When I was a boy it was three times as expensive to buy a pint of beer in a pub as it was in a supermarket. Now it's seven or eight times as much, and so something must change, whether it's through taxation or improving the prices to reduce that differential."