Cable told attendees at CAMRA’s annual Parliamentary Reception last night that he was on their side and that they could expect an announcement on government plans for a statutory code to regulate the pubco/tenant relationship “soon”.
“I am very much on your side on this one,” he said. “I recognise, and my colleagues recognise, there is a very basic unfairness in that relationship and it’s got to be dealt with.”
Of the Government’s decision he added: “I can’t tell you exactly when it will come out but it will be soon.”
Later in the evening, in conversation with All Party Parliamentary Beer Group chairman Andrew Griffiths MP, Cable allegedly said: "I thought Punch had already gone bust.”
Griffiths told the PMA he was shocked by the Liberal Democrat grandee’s weak knowledge of the pub sector: “This is the man making a decision that is going to affect many businesses and thousands of jobs.
“I now have no confidence in his ability to make such a decision.
“Cable made a massive error last night. For the 400 people in my constituency who work for Punch it will be alarming to hear that the Business Secretary does not even know that their company is still trading.”
Griffiths added: “He has either got to get a better grasp of the facts and issues or absent himself from the process and let someone who knows what they are talking about make the decision for him.”
In 2010, Cable was stripped of responsibility for government media policy after it emerged he told undercover reporters that he had "declared war" on Rupert Murdoch over the media magnate's plans to take over BSkyB.
Griffiths said: “Cable is once again crossing the line between his own personal prejudices and making a fair and informed decision in which the pub industry can have confidence.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "There was a misunderstanding during a private conversation."