The online petition, launched last week by the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), received 15,000 signatures after its first 24 hours and now has the backing of over 32,000 people, all calling for a Watchdog to govern the behaviour of large pub companies.
Camra’s chief executive Mike Benner said: “This petition is a clear indication of the overwhelming public support for vital pubco reform and the introduction of an independent Pubs Watchdog, which is urgently needed to govern the behaviour of large pub companies and ensure publicans are treated fairly.
“The large pub companies own around a third of the UK’s pubs and it is essential the Government takes swift action to fix what is clearly a broken system. Camra would hope that today’s debate will spur the Government into action that is now much overdue.”
Statutory Code debate
It comes in the same week that the Labour party held an opposition debate, calling for legislation to introduce a Statutory Code on the relationship between pubcos and tenants.
But Labour's attempt to force the government to introduce legislation establishing a Statutory Code was rejected, with MPs instead voting in favour of the Coalition’s amendment, which welcomes debate over the relationships between pub companies and landlords but states the government should ‘carefully consider the evidence’ from its consultation on the issue before taking action.
Speaking during the debate, Andrew Griffiths MP (Conservative), chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group, urged the Government not to introduce a Statutory Code, claiming it would actually ‘force more pubs to close’.
As reported by our sister title, the Publican’s Morning Advertiser, Griffiths said: “The reality is the unintended consequences of this legislation will cause many more pubs to close and see a further decline in the great British pub.
“I urge the House not to go down the route of legislation.”
But Toby Perkins MP (Labour), the Shadow Pubs Minister who led Tuesday’s debate, disagrees, insisting the relationship between pubcos and tenants ‘needs to be fixed’.
“Too many pubs across Britain are closing their doors and we urgently need action but Ministers are dragging their feet,” said Perkins.
“A wide range of bodies from the Federation of Small Businesses, Camra and trade unions to the BIS Select Committee and the All Party Save the Pub Group have recognised that the relationship between the big pub companies and local landlords is an unfair one which needs to be fixed and have backed plans for a proper Statutory Code with teeth.
“Pubs are vital hubs in communities up and down the country. By forcing a House of Commons debate we are demanding that the Government act to support them rather than caving in to powerful vested interests.”
The Government has delayed its decision on a Statutory Code while it considers the consultation responses it has received.