Speaking to BigHospitality, the businessman who is currently chairman of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), said apparent divisions in the coalition and the threat of further regulation could lead to pubcos putting planned investment projects on hold.
“I hope that pubs and beer don’t become a political football which is where they have been for too long,” he explained. “We don’t want more regulation, we don’t want more taxation – we want the burden of both to be reduced. Any regulation is a risk for businesses and they will then say: ‘we will defer investment; we will suspend it until we feel more confident’.
“If you have 42 reviews in 44 years that is not a good platform for long-term investment,” he added.
Neame is ten years into his time as chief executive of the Kent-based brewer and pubco and 12 months into his tenure as BBPA chairman. In that time the threat of an end to self-regulation has come and gone but a code and adjudicator to regulate the relationship between the larger pubcos and their tenants now seems as close as it has ever been.
However Neame dismissed criticism that has been levelled at the industry for supposed in-fighting.
“There are many different comments that are made that are emotive and actually what the consultation gives everybody is a chance to stand back and look at the evidence.
"I think all actors in this debate actually welcome the opportunity to have a coherent. Objective review of where we have got to. Self-regulation has come a long way so far and I think there is a great opportunity for it to go further too."
The businessman also said he believed there was still a chance self-regulation would be given time to work.
“Nobody in the sector would support abuse of the tie and mechanisms have been put in place for people to appeal if they think there is a case for abuse. We think the voluntary code is working. The model of the tie has evolved for 300 years and will continue to evolve because it is self-evident that pubs need to be fit to compete in the market.
“What we want as an outcome is certainty. There has been four Select Committee enquiries on this particular subject in the last nine years but actually there have been 42 enquiries since 1969 into various different aspects of the tie and what never comes across is what a great working relationship it can be,” Neame concluded.
For a video interview with Jonathan Neame, in which the chief executive reveals why he is ‘more confident’ about the future of the Kent-based firm than ever before, visit BigHospitality tomorrow.