THIS week I attended an all-party meeting in the House of Commons on the crisis facing Britain's pubs.

In the past four years, 30 pubs have closed in Taunton Deane, and across the whole country over 4,000 pubs have been shut.

Pubs are businesses, not charities. In order to survive they need to attract customers, and many have diversified in order to remain viable.

Yet pubs are also part of the fabric of our society and the heritage of our country.

That is why Eastenders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale are all set in the social hub of the community pub.

Different factors have come together to make life harder for publicans: the recession, the smoking ban, cheap supermarket alcohol and changing lifestyles.

To compound these problems, the Government has introduced year-on-year, above-inflation tax increases on beer.

This is harming pubs that are already struggling as well as damaging smaller independent breweries.

These higher taxes are not having any significant impact on binge drinking. The Government's main motivation is to raise extra money, but the consequence for pubs is to make a bad situation even worse.

I have visited every brewery in Taunton Deane and I am an enthusiastic supporter of the Campaign for Real Ale.

Maintaining attractive community pubs is important to the appeal and character of Somerset.