MPs voted in favour of the proposal, included in a Parliamentary motion, during a debate in Parliament today. The motion, from Business, Innovation & Skills Committee (BISC) chairman Adrian Bailey, means the Government is urged to set up an independent body, with members approved by BISC, to review the industry ideal in autumn this year.
The Business, Innovation and Skills department claims this vote is not legally-binding. However, the BISC is convinced the Government has to act as this was a unanimous vote in Parliament.
If an independent panel finds that self-regulation has failed, they are expected to push for a statutory code of practice, possibly to include a free-of-tie option combined with an open market rent review.
BISC has been very critical of the Government’s decision last year not to follow its recommendation and implement a statutory code of practice governed by an ombudsman, and a number of MPs hit out at the Government for favouring a form of strengthened self regulation during today’s debate.
Labour shadow business minister Toby Perkins said: “This was an opportunity to take steps to solve the problems but the minister has willfully and deliberately not lived up to that commitment.”
Business Minister Ed Davey strongly refuted criticism leveled at him. “These reforms have the potential to deliver real change ...and [to be] brought into effect far more quickly than by legislation,” he said.
He also rejected claims that the Government had been in “collusion” with the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA), pointing out that he had held a number of meetings with groups that are critical of pub companies including the Independent Pub Confederation and the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers.
Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland also suggested that part of the Government’s response had been “cut and pasted” from the BBPA submisison. "Both contained the same 'typo'", he said.
Davey revealed that progress has been made on self regulation, with six of the big pub companies, along with some family brewers, stating on their websites that their codes of practice are now legally binding.
Mike Benner, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale, said: "CAMRA is delighted that MPs from all parties have highlighted the inadequacy of the Government’s attempts to tackle unfair business practices in the pub sector and that the Government are now obliged to commission an independent review into the matter.
"Following the success of this motion the Government now has a chance to think again and to consult on meaningful proposals to ensure the survival of many thousands of pubs."
However, BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “We are disappointed that MPs have supported calls for further red tape for pubs.
"With the number of pub closures falling, further Government red tape for pubs risks choking off recovery – stifling growth and hitting jobs.
“The voluntary approach has enthused pub companies to go far beyond the framework code in their own codes of practice. What we need is more transparency and low cost ways to complain and better business support for would-be licensees to help them make a success of running a pub in a truly challenging economic climate.
"If Parliament could concentrate on reducing beer taxation, it will help publicans far more than any calls for a statutory code.”
ALMR strategic affairs director Kate Nicholls said: "The debate sent a clear signal that this matter is by no means done and dusted and the industry will remain under the political spotlight until it puts its own house in order and the substantive issues identified by successive Select Committees – and indeed the Minister – are not only addressed, but resolved."
Greg Mulholland added: “Today’s debate showed very clearly that the Government have misjudged and mishandled their response to the Select Committee and that a clear majority of MPs do not believe they have got it right on the issue of much needed pubco reform.
“The message from the House of Commons today is that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is now under scrutiny on this issue, as well as the BBPA and the pubcos and parliament now demands a independent review of the situation starting in Autumn."