Pubco-tenant debate will never go away

By Greg Mulholland

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Minister, Government, Bbpa

Mulholland: 'Campaign continues'
Mulholland: 'Campaign continues'
And so it goes on. The Government, at last, published its response to the Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee’s (BISC’s) report and its long-awaited plan of action to rebalance the pub industry.

Despite the fact that coalition Government ministers clearly committed to stick to the plan put in place by the last regime in March 2010, backing the committee’s timetable for legislation, they announced no statutory code, no guest-beer right and no adjudicator.

The response from most trade organisations was understandably one of fury. Having committed to one course of action, ministers followed an entirely different one. How could this have happened?

The answer has now been provided. Just when many thought the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), so criticised recently, had pulled off a lobbying success, it has outed the reality of the grubby process that led to the Government’s plans.

In an interview with the PMA, its chief executive Brigid Simmonds explained: “We have been talking to officials and to the minister for some weeks. It has been very hard work and we initially produced a report on what the industry was prepared to offer.

"I kept this extremely tight. Only a very few people knew of these discussions. Not even all of the members of the BBPA knew the details.”

How helpful. Ministers may not have been forthcoming about how they came up with such an ill-fitting and timid plan of action, but the BBPA has now let us know it was indeed cooked up with them in what would have been — pre-smoking ban — smoke-filled rooms, behind everyone else’s back.

Worse than that, instead of their own commitments and the committee’s work being the starting point, this secret BBPA report was! In other words, the pubcos told BIS what they would just about be prepared to do — and BIS bought it.

Ministers and officials have been, at best, naive; at the worst they have colluded with the very companies deemed to have caused the problems that have seen the tenanted pub sector on its knees.

They have had the wool pulled over their eyes by the very people criticised by the committee. The worst thing is just how willingly they have allowed that to happen.

Either way, ministers have got this badly wrong, for the response does nothing to address the fundamental point about the unfair share of turnover pubcos take from pubs, which makes it impossible for many publicans to make a living.

They are wrong in thinking that this is now all going to go away. It isn’t — and the imbalance that has done so much damage to the pub sector will continue — and so, of course, will the campaigns to stop it.

Related topics: Legislation

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