Findlay calls on MPs to recognise industry progress

By Hamish Champ

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Pubs New pubs Great british beer festival Alcoholic beverage Campaign for real ale

MPs still looking to knock the pub sector should look at the progress being made by companies, Marston's chief executive Ralph Findlay said today....

MPs still looking to knock the pub sector should look at the progress being made by companies, Marston's chief executive Ralph Findlay said today.

Speaking as the Midlands-based brewer and pub operator announced an improvement in trading across all its operating divisions in recent months, Findlay said politicians needed to look at the progress many in the industry are making.

"I can't speak for other operators but Marston's has moved a long way towards dealing with the issues that generated strong feelings in some quarters," he said.

"We've genuine free-of-tie and free-trade pricing options available to our licensees, while our code of practice has been through a rigorous process of accreditation. And we were already doing many of the things that were being asked for, such as PIRRS (the Pubs Independent Rent Review Scheme) and producing lease agreements in plain English," Findlay said.

Pub companies have until next June to convince the government that they have 'got their house in order' in terms of how they deal with their tenants. If companies do not satisfy MPs that this is the case the threat of legislation remains a possibility.

Greg Mulholland, LibDem MP and chair of the All Party Save the Pub Group, told The Publican ​at yesterday's Great British Beer Festival that he was "encouraged" that the coalition government was still pressing for the industry to fulfil the demands set it by the last Business, Innovation and Skills committee of MPs.

However speaking today Findlay said: "Some may regard the recent changes as merely cosmetic, and I recognise that not everyone with an interest in the pub industry will be happy. But MPs need to update themselves on the significant progress that is being made."

Findlay added he expected that within three years around 600 tenanted pubs would be on Marston's new Retail Agreement, which sees the brewer shoulder responsibility for drinks, menus and pricing in those pubs on such deals, with tenants taking care of staffing.

This would leave around 1,700 pubs on substantive deals, with some 100 pubs to be sold off.

Findlay, who has spent the past few days scouting locations for new pubs in the South East of England, said of the 40-plus new pubs the brewer has built in the past three years none had run into difficulty.

The pubs, built at a total cost of around £100m, were trading in excess of £20,000 a week and generating profits of around £300,000 a year. The brewer expects to unveil 20 new pubs in 2011, he added.

"We don't mind where in England and Wales we build our new pubs, as long as the location and the local market fit with what we want to do with the site. On average the returns are better from new build pubs, but we will still look at pubs that come onto the market from other operators," he added.

Meanwhile, Findlay said he supported the coalition government's proposal to ban below-cost selling of alcohol, but added he saw little point in what he called "railing against the supermarkets".

"Pubs have to be more than just being about competing with supermarkets on price, although we don't see the long term trend of people staying at home changing," he said.

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