Statutory code: the pub trade responds

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Statutory code: the pub trade responds
The Government announced today that it is to introduce a statutory code and an adjudicator to regulate the pubco-tenant relationship. Here's the response from the industry and MPs.

Greg Mulholland MP, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Save The Pub Group

I am delighted that Vince Cable and the Government have now decided that a statutory code of practice is needed that will at last enshrine in law that the tied licensee is not worse of than the free of tie licensee. This is great news for pubs, pubco publicans and customers and is huge boost in terms of the Coalition Government delivering the Prime Minister’s promise to be a pro-pub Government.

It is a great credit to Vince and his team to have reviewed the situation a year on, as Parliament requested, and to have seen clearly that yet again, the pubcos and their trade association, the BBPA, have carried on in the same vein and attempted to use window dressing and delay tactics to seek to avoid real and much needed reform.

Paul Kenny, GMB general secretary

If Vince Cable sticks to this plan this is a welcome step forward. It is a tribute to the hard work by GMB tied tenants who did not give up their demands for a fair deal. GMB will be vigilant of the grave danger that the BBPA will again try to ensure the small print is vague to wreck the plan.

Adrian Bailey, chairman of the Business, Innovation & Skills Committee (BISC)

It is a complete U-turn but a very welcome U-turn. It is tribute to the pressure put on the Government by the BIS Select Committee and the All-Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group that have time after time demonstrated that the voluntary application, as put forward by the Government and supported by Government as late as October, is now being scrapped. However, the devil will be in the detail and the select committee will be submitting evidence to the consultation to ensure that there is no way that the pub companies can circumvent the proposals.

Simon Clarke, founder of Fair Pint

It’s pretty much what we asked for. I think this is the Government’s way of accepting the motion set to take place in tomorrows debate. It is really good news, we are very delighted. The great difficulty is that we have to see this through. We will continue to push for a free-of-tie lease option.

Toby Perkins MP, shadow small business minister

A whole year late and after far too many months of inaction and foot dragging, ministers have caved in and are finally accepting what we have said all along: that ensuring fairness in the relationship between the big pub companies and their landlords requires a statutory code.

Labour has led calls alongside a broad coalition for a proper statutory code to support landlords, protect local pubs and help turn around the rising tide of pub closures. So we welcome the fact that, after Labour called a debate on pub companies, and on the very eve of this taking place, ministers have decided to think again. But it is greatly disappointing that they have ruled out giving landlords freedom to buy their beer where they want.

Given the huge amount of time which ministers have already wasted, it is crucial that the Government moves quickly to bring forward proposals for a proper statutory code this year. We will be urging ministers to strengthen the Code by including a non-tied option for publicans, which campaigners have long been calling for.

Nick Bish, chief executive at the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers

Today’s announcement draws a line under the protracted and prolonged period of political uncertainty – this debate has been going on for far too long without any clear end in sight - and that can only be helpful for investment in the sector as a whole and individual businesses.

The proposals unveiled by the Secretary of State today will not take effect immediately and that makes it even more important that the BBPA, ALMR, FLVA and BII continue to engage in robust dialogue to finalise and implement quickly the substantive improvements outlined in version 6 of the Code and the associated changes to the self-regulatory structure. This will not only mean that tied tenants and lessees will have greater transparency and more robust rent setting in the meantime, but also that those businesses which fall outside the scope of the proposed regulatory structure will continue to be protected.

Mike Benner​ chief executive for the Campaign for Real Ale

Over 3,500 tied public houses have been lost since the start of 2009. Many of these will have been lost as a result of excessive rents and by being forced to buy beer at up to 50% above market rates. The proposal for a “fair dealing” provision will allow publicans tied to large pub companies to challenge these high prices which means fewer valued pubs will be forced to close their doors.

CAMRA fully endorses the Government’s wish to ensure that tied publicans are no worse off than free of tie publicans. Research shows that 46% of tied publicans earn less than £15,000 per year in contrast to 22% of free of tie publicans. Guest beer and free of tie options offered by pub companies with more than 500 pubs, long advocated by CAMRA, would be a straightforward means of levelling up the playing field.

Nicola Connop, spokeswoman for Business Debtline

This will be welcome news for many struggling landlords around the country. We hope that publicans who are tied to large pubcos will be afforded greater flexibility in both running their own business and repaying any debts. This has the potential to significantly increase the business viability of many of the UK’s independent pubs.

Independent pubs have faced incredibly tough times over recent years, and the number of closures is alarming. Between the recession, the smoking ban, and increased competition from supermarkets, pubs have faced an almost insurmountable series of obstacles. Clearly the Government has recognised that something must be done in order to prevent the traditional British pub from becoming something of an endangered species.

It will be important for the success of these changes that the adjudicator has real teeth when imposing sanctions.

We hope to see further guidance clarifying how the new system will work, for example how and in what circumstances a publican could complain to the Adjudicator.

Related topics Legislation