Last week saw Mulholland and his fellow MPs in the Save the Pub Group table an amendment to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill that would have removed permitted development rights for pubs, called New Clause 9.
The amendment was opposed by the BBPA, which issued a briefing to MPs, saying the amendment would mean "planning permission would have to be gained for improvements to [existing] pubs, including alterations to the property, such as new fences, signage, internal walls, kitchen development, bar extensions, etc".
The BBPA’s arguments were then repeated in parliament by Gavin Barwell, the Minister of State for Housing and Planning, as a reason for not backing the amendment, which was ultimately defeated by 274 MPs to 161.
'Cast a dark shadow'
Mulholland, who chairs the Save the Pub Group, told parliament in the aftermath: “I need to bring to the house a very troubling matter. One of the issues that has exercised us has been the issue of the activities of corporate lobbyists – something that, at times, has cast a dark shadow over the political process.
"A brief was circulated on December 13 by BBPA, who represent the large pub companies, who wish to be allowed to continue to convert pubs into supermarkets without needing planning permission.
"The BBPA circulated a briefing to MPs that made an entirely false claim that was then repeated by a minister at the dispatch box as a reason for not accepting an amendment to the Neighbourhood Planning Bill. Honourable members were also clearly influenced by this in the way they voted.
"Mr Speaker, the BBPA made an entirely false claim."
Sufficient protection under current legislation
After hearing of Mulholland’s accusations, the BBPA told The Morning Advertiser it stood by the claims made in its briefing: "Greg Mulholland hasn’t raised these issues with us. However, we remain concerned that the removal of permitted development rights would, in practice, mean that pubs would require planning permission for certain alterations, which would increase costs.
"This would affect not only BBPA members, but all the 20,000 pubs which are independently owned. We remain of the view that sufficient protections for pubs are provided by the Localism Act 2011, through the system of assets of community value (ACVs)."
Afterwards, Mulholland explained why he had raised the point in parliament: "It is absolutely disgraceful that pubco lobbyists – the BBPA – sent an entirely false statement to MPs that misled them and clearly has wrongly influenced their decision as to how to vote. However the fact that this led to a minister misleading the House of Commons makes it a very serious matter indeed as well as the latest corporate lobbying abuse scandal that must be dealt with.
"The BBPA must acknowledge that the offending statement is false. So the BBPA must be made to apologise for misleading MPs and the minister, and it must apologise to members of the public and pub landlords who saw the political process corrupted by a false claim."