MPs instead voted in favour of the Coalition’s amendment, which welcomed debate over the relationships between pub companies and landlords, but stated the government should carefully consider the evidence from its consultation on the issue before taking action.
During the debate, Business secretary Vince Cable recognised that something needed to be done to regulate pub companies, and assured the Commons that the government would act on the issue. “There is no attempt to kick this into the long grass,” he said.
However, he added that the government did not want to cut corners and needed time to respond to the consultation, which received over 9,000 submissions.
“We have a large number of responses and different strands of evidence that we are trying to reconcile and respond to properly. We must do this right,” he said.
Labour’s motion, which was published on Monday, called for the introduction of a pub statutory code which would include a free-of-tie option, open market rent reviews and the establishment of an independent pubs adjudicator.
Toby Perkins MP, Labour’s shadow pubs minister, said: “We are demanding that ministers introduce a Pubs Bill in this year’s Queen’s Speech to give local pubs the protection they need and so that landlords get a fair deal.
“A broad coalition including CAMRA, business organisations and trade unions are backing a new statutory code with teeth. This week Labour is demanding that ministers stop dragging their feet at a time when 26 pubs are closing every week.”
A similar motion was passed by the House of Commons two years ago, and ministers committed to introducing a statutory code in January 2013, but have not yet done so.
“A year ago, in response to pressure from campaigners and Labour, Ministers said they’d take action but twelve months later they’ve failed to do,” said Perkins.
“That’s why we need to see legislation brought forward this year. If the Tory-led Government fails to act, voters will know that only by voting Labour can they bring about the fairness that Britain's much-loved pubs so desperately need.”
Ban on restrictive covenants
Ahead of the debate yesterday, the Local Government Association (LGA) made a public call for competition bodies to ban the use of ‘restrictive covenants’ by pubs chains.
The LGA, which represents councils in England and Wales, said such covenants have resulted in the loss of almost 600 pubs over the past five years.
Councillor Mike Jones, chairman of the LGA's Environment and Housing Board, said: "We want to see the Government tackling this issue head on, rather than brushing it under the carpet.
"Hundreds of pubs are being lost forever every year and this is having a devastating effect on communities.
"It is utterly unfair that pubs, many of which have been at the heart of communities for generations, should be shut because of these covenants, which only benefit the big breweries and pub chains.”
The LGA argued that covenants stifle competition and undermine the government’s ‘Right to Bid Scheme’, which gives communities the opportunity to ‘pause’ the sale of buildings such as pubs and develop a bid to buy them.
"Pubs are one of the cornerstones of our communities and they help to bring people together. We want to see councils and communities controlling their own high streets and having the final say when a pub reopens," said Jones.
Mike Benner, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), said: "We fully back the LGA's campaign.
"While some pub companies and brewers have voluntarily agreed to refrain from this restrictive practice many have not which is why urgent Government action is needed."