Punch Taverns puzzled by senior Lib Dems refusal to meet

By Rob Willock

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Punch taverns, Liberal democrats

Punch Taverns has expressed frustration that its efforts to engage with Liberal Democrat politicians involved in the Government’s consultation on pubco regulation have gone unanswered.

The company made formal representations to business secretary Vince Cable last month after he reportedly told MP Andrew Griffiths he thought Punch Taverns had “already gone bust”.

Chairman Steve Billingham asked Cable for a meeting to discuss Punch-specific and general pubco issues “to clear up any uncertainty there might be”.

Separately, Punch central operations director Andy Slee has written to MP Greg Mulholland — chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group — several times, asking him to “substantiate wild accusations” he made about the business, including claims that: Punch overcharged its tenants by £4.3bn; Punch manipulated the market; Punch fiddled with its tenants’ responses to the consultation; and that PICA-Service chairman Rodger Vickers was employed as a Punch surveyor.

Punch also contacted Lib Dem chief whip Don Foster in December, saying Mulholland had “overstepped the mark” with his comments.

Puzzling

Slee said: “Over recent weeks we have been in touch with three Liberal Democrat figures; Vince Cable, Greg Mulholland and Don Foster to discuss with each of them serious matters that we believe require their personal attention. We have not had the courtesy of a response from any of them, which we find puzzling.”

Mulholland said: “Punch are not telling the truth. I am in an exchange of correspondence with them, which is ongoing. It was they who refused to answer my fundamental question: ‘Why, if their tied deals are so great, are they so afraid of allowing their tenants a market rent-only option?’

“On the Vince Cable point, they are being seriously disingenuous. They know full well that a Secretary of State who is currently considering a Government response to a major consultation could not possibly meet with them.

“Punch’s model is the past, so I see no point meeting people desperately trying to prop up a zombie company and a discredited business model, one that has caused thousands of pub closures.”

Related topics: Punch Pubs & Co

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