Mulholland: More delays in quest to crack the code

By Greg Mulholland

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: All-party parliamentary save, American films

Mulholland: A revised code will not address the fundamental tenant-pubco issue
Mulholland: A revised code will not address the fundamental tenant-pubco issue
Last week we saw the announcement that the revised industry framework code governing tenant-pubco relations will not now come into force until the end of October.

Considering how little confidence there already is in this process, this news will reduce that further. In light of the fact that in January, MPs voted unanimously for a motion urging a review of the revised code in the autumn, the October introduction looks like a cynical attempt to delay further scrutiny.

It was last November when the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS)-branded British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) written report came out, in response to the select committee but also revealing its plans following ministerial commitments to legislate.

Those commitments were broken in favour of a non-industry-agreed plan, cooked up with the BBPA, which we were told by BIS “will bring about immediate improvements”. Even considering the history of this issue and the spin from BIS, no-one can claim that 11 months is anything resembling “immediate”.

More worryingly, the then minister Ed Davey said in front of the select committee last December: “Via the self-regulatory package we’ve got, we’ve addressed issues the committee put to Government, and we have been able to do so far more quickly.”

Eleven months, even in Government terms, can’t be described as quick. But the biggest concern is the fundamental one. Davey said he believed the issues the committee covered had been addressed. However, Davey did not understand the issue or the sector. He believed the point was whether there were codes and whether they were legally binding, so he left for the Cabinet thinking that, having delivered a new code, he had delivered change.

Yet in reality, whenever this new code comes in, it won’t include a genuine free-of-tie option or a guest beer right, so does nothing to deal with the need to rebalance risk and reward between pubco and publican.

Whether the revised BBPA code, not agreed by tenant organisations, came in last October or comes in this October, is not the point. It never was about whether there was a code of practice; it was about pubcos ripping off tenants. So this will be another document that will not address the problem doing so much damage to UK pubs — that pubcos continue to be able to take more from the turnover of each pub than is fair. Until that is addressed, there is no meaningful change.

So the BBPA and pubcos have got what they wanted and kicked the issue into the long grass. Luckily, the All-Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group and select committee will see this for what it is.

Greg Mulholland MP is chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group

Related topics: Legislation

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