MPs to examine pubco reforms

By Hamish Champ

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Independent pub confederation, Recession

The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee (BIS) has confirmed it is to host a new evidence hearing on the trade from industry organisations on...

The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee (BIS) has confirmed it is to host a new evidence hearing on the trade from industry organisations on December 8.

The meeting, which was revealed this morning by The Publican​, means BIS is asking for interested parties to submit comments to biscom@parliament.uk​ no later than Wednesday 18 November. The committee has asked that submissions be no more than 4,000 words in length.

Witnesses at the hearing will be the British Beer and Pub Association; the Independent Pub Confederation and the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

The committee said it would be interested to hear views on:

  • RICS' Pub Industry Forum Report and Recommendations;
  • BBPA's agreement with BII and FLVA to revise its Framework Code of Practice on the Granting of Tenancies and Leases;
  • The Independent Pub Rent Review Scheme (PIRRS); and
  • The formation of the Independent Pub Confederation.

While the Office of Fair Trading's (OFT) declined to refer the pub companies to the Competition Commission following a 'super complaint' tabled by CAMRA, Peter Luff, BIS chairman, said a referral to the competition authorities should not be ruled out.

The evidence sessions will be followed by a final report likely to be published in January next year.

Responding to the news, Steve Corbett of Fair Pint said he was encouraged that a referral was seen by Luff to be an option.

"Fair Pint welcomes the fact that tenants are going to be given another opportunity to put the case for change to the Select Committee," Corbett said.

"The Committee's report in May accurately focused on the operation of ties and the biased system of setting rents as one of the major causes of the problems facing the pub sector.

"The pubcos' reaction to the report and the failure of the industry to agree to a mediated solution with the main tenants representatives shows that despite the hard hitting criticisms of the select committee there is an unwillingness in the industry to do anything which would make a substantive difference to the balance of risk and reward between pub owning companies and their tenants.

The pub industry welcomed the opportunity to address the new sessions.

Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of BBPA, who will give evidence at the December 8 session, said the BEC report had "pointed out shortcomings" which had been addressed.

"Our aim will be to set out clearly for the Committee, the comprehensive improvements our code makes to the way tied agreements operate, the clear commitment of all our member companies to implement these changes, and how binding and enforceable these changes will be on all parties, as the code will form part of the agreement signed between the companies and their licensees.

"We trust committee members, having heard and examined the evidence will conclude that on the basis of these reforms, the RICS review and the ruling of the OFT, further Government intervention in the sector is unnecessary.

"We can then all then move forward to tackle the serious challenges presented by the record recession, escalating taxation and increasing red tape that are causing our sector such difficulties.

"We are determined to do all we can to support the great British pub and its hard-working publicans through this severe economic downturn. We will work constructively with Government and all stakeholders to foster a policy environment that recognises, values and supports our industry."

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