In an exclusive interview with the Publican’s Morning Advertiser, the employment relations, consumer and postal affairs minister, said it became obvious that it could “not sit back and say ‘that’s fine, it can continue’”, as there had been “no real evidence that things had changed significantly”.
The Government is currently consulting with interested parties to put together a consultation document that will use version six of the industry framework code of practice as a starting point for the introduction of a statutory code and an adjudicator. The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) intervened at the end of last year when secretary of state Vince Cable called for evidence on how the self-regulation deal — which included the strengthening of the industry framework code and the setting up of the PICA-Service and Pubs Advisory Service — was working.
Swinson told the PMA: “There was still lots of evidence that there were problems and nothing significant that said there had been a step-change within the way self-regulation was working.
“This was indeed characterised by the fact even the revised framework code, that everyone had signed up to, wasn’t agreed. Actually that looked more like stalemate than significant progress.
“I think what we would have needed to see was that self-regulation was really making massive strides to sorting out the issues and there just wasn’t any sign that this was the case,” she said. “The pace wasn’t there, the consensus across the industry wasn’t there and there were still these significant concerns coming back about the injustice and the market not working as it should do.”
However, Swinson said she recognised that many pub companies and breweries are operating responsibly.
“I think it is easy to demonise and this happens a bit in this debate when it is seen as black and white,” she said.
“I don’t think this is about demonising any particular individual company but recognising that there are truly some significant issues that we can’t just sit back and say ‘that’s fine, it can continue’.”
She admitted that ultimately there was a “very strong consensus” across the political parties in Parliament, with many individual MPs experiencing issues in their own constituencies.
Swinson encouraged the industry not to give up on its current self-regulation programme, claiming that any signifi-cant improvements will help the transition to the statutory code.
She said: “I think that we absolutely should keep making progress with the voluntary approach.”