Following a lively debate on the floor of the House of Commons today, MPs have unanimously passed a motion requiring the Government to commission an independent adjudicator to manage the relationship between pubcos and tenants this autumn.
The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee (BISC) submitted the motion, following extensive campaigning by extensive campaigning by organisations including the Federation of Small Businesses, Forum for Private Business, licensee groups and the Parliamentary Save the Pub Group.
And, in a quite remarkable turn of events, the motion eventually went through without a vote.
Mike Benner, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), which had 5,000 of its members individually contact their local MPs asking them to support this motion, said: “‘Camra is delighted that MPs from all parties have highlighted the inadequacy of the Government’s attempts to tackle unfair business practices in the pub sector and that the Government are now obliged to commission an independent review into the matter.
“The large pub companies must be encouraged to provide their lessees with free of tie and guest beer options accompanied by an open market rent review. These steps would effectively self-regulate the operation of tie agreements.
“The large pub companies have been living in the last-chance saloon since 2004, during which time many thousands of valued community pubs have been lost forever while pub companies have failed to deliver meaningful self-regulation.”
The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) were not so pleased with the decision, having insisted that self-regulation does in fact work for the pub industry.
“We are disappointed that MPs have supported calls for further red tape for pubs,” said BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds. “We have demonstrated that self-regulation is working. Our focus remains in delivering against the recent agreements we have made to enhance the Industry Framework Code, introduce a more effective mediation service and improve support to lessees and tenants.
With the number of pub closures falling, further Government red tape for pubs risks choking off recovery – stifling growth and hitting jobs.
“The voluntary approach has enthused pub companies to go far beyond the Framework Code in their own Codes of Practice. What we need is more transparency and low cost ways to complain (PICAS) and better business support for would-be licensees to help them make a success of running a pub in a truly challenging economic climate.
“If Parliament could concentrate on reducing beer taxation, it will help publicans far more than any calls for a statutory code.”
If the independent panel finds that self-regulation has failed, they are expected to push for a statutory code of practice, possibly to include a free-of-tie option combined with an open market rent review.