It may seem strange to some that I, a Moslem, should support pubs in Wales.

However, it is true that pubs play a vital role in local communities as centres of economic, social and cultural life.

Whether it is the pub quiz league, darts tournaments or as venues for live entertainment, pubs are at the hub of social activity in their localities.

Many pubs have diversified into the restaurant trade and have been awarded stars and rosettes as an indication of the quality of food provided.

Some are also historic buildings and are able to trace their history back many centuries.

So it is important in my view that we do everything we can to support our pubs.

Statistics suggest that three pubs a week are at present closing down in Wales.

More than 30 pubs in my south east Wales region have closed since May 2011.

This trend must be reversed.

Business rates are a huge burden on small and medium enterprises and pubs are no different.

Business rates for pubs are calculated slightly differently to other businesses.

A measure called as “Fair Maintainable Trade” is used when calculating the value of pubs and other licensed premises as opposed to using the rateable value of the property.

Pubs do, however, qualify for the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme.

According to the Valuation Office Agency the average rateable value of public houses and pub restaurants in Wales as at September last year was £21,000.

But this average rateable value varies widely across Wales.

In Merthyr Tydfil it is £6,342 but in Newport it is nearly £32,000.

I fully support the Small Business Rate Relief Scheme.

This support has been vital in keeping many businesses afloat during the recent economic downturn.

But I believe we must go further to help those pubs that are barely surviving at the moment.

Newport city centre is seeing many regeneration projects at the moment which are welcome.

We must seize the economic opportunities presented by holding the NATO summit at the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport and maximise the benefits to the city, the region and to the whole of Wales.

I hope that many of the empty pub properties that currently exist in Newport can be brought back into commercial use.

This will greatly assist in the regeneration of our communities and city centre by creating vibrant hubs of economic, social and cultural life.