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Statutory Code: Industry on the brink of 'meaningful change' claims shadow pubs minister Toby Perkins

By Michelle Perrett , 12-Feb-2013
Last updated on 12-Feb-2013 at 11:39 GMT2013-02-12T11:39:00Z

Statutory Code: Industry on the brink of 'meaningful change' claims shadow pubs minister Toby Perkins

Labour shadow pubs minister Toby Perkins said the industry is on the “brink of making meaningful change” with the introduction of a statutory code and adjudicator to manage the pub company-tenant relationship.

He was speaking during a round-table event at the House of Commons last week, which asked licensees to look into the three major issues — an alternative to a free-of-tie option, the role of an independent adjudicator and how to make pub rent reviews independent.

The Government is currently talking to interested stakeholders about a document that will outline plans to legislate against pub companies with 500 or more tied or tenanted pubs.

Perkins said: “We have the opportunity to put the ball in the back of the net.

“The most fundamental question is whether or not we get the compulsory free-of-tie option and, if not, what mechanisms might be available to make sure you are not worse off than if you were free of tie.
There might be a sense that this is the only way it could be delivered. But I think that from the debate it is relatively clear that the Government is anxious not to go for a free-of-tie option, so we need to investigate what alternatives there might be.”

He said that he believed there is going to be an incredibly powerful lobby encouraging the Government not to support a free-of-tie option.

He added: “I recently met with Mr Townsend of Enterprise and had a long discussion with him. I fear that I may have given him a tip that I was not intending to do. He was saying in that meeting that he can’t see anyway that the Government can deliver or define it, and no-one has satisfactorily explained to him what a principal of being as well off as a free-of-tie lessee would be.

“I said, fundamentally, that if no-one can define it then surely the only way of delivering on it was [to be] free of tie, and he looked a little bit queezy about that.”

Licensees make suggestions

Those represented suggested a few options, such as being offered free-of-tie prices by their brewery or pubco or allowing a licensee who is tied for a certain beer to be able to buy it from whatever supplier they want. However, it was admitted that it was difficult to find an alterative to free of tie.

On the adjudicator, licensees suggested the individual should be appointed from outside the pub trade, there should be an assistant to the adjudicator, most cases should be resolved in six months and they should be able to fish for evidence and advertise for other complainants to come forward.

The pubco should have two chances to resolve an issue within two months before the licensee can go to the adjudicator. It was thought there should be unlimited financial penalties for pubcos found in breach, but it should be like the insurance sector with suggested payouts for certain crimes