Frustration builds as one year passes with no Government response on statutory code

By James Wallin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Statutory code, Government, Existential quantification

The pub trade has waited one year for
The pub trade has waited one year for
Publicans have been left “clinging on” by the year-long wait for a Government response on pubco reform, industry figures have told the PMA.

The consultation on a statutory code for the relationship between pubcos and tenants was launched on 22 April 2013.

In December Jo Swinson, the Business, Innovation and Skills minister, promised the Government would respond in the New Year. At the time she said: "The best decisions are made on the best evidence. We've got lots of it now and will decide on the next steps very soon." However, this week - four months later - a BIS spokeswoman could only promise a response would be given "soon".

Kate Nicholls, strategic affairs director at the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, said the 6,000 responses prompted by the consultation made it almost impossible for the Government to act by its original deadline of last autumn.

She said: “There is a lot of uncertainty and that has had an impact on investment. The longer this uncertainty continues the more of an effect that has on both a macro and a micro level. Publicans and pub companies alike need the clarity to move forward.”

Unsustainable

Fair Pint campaigner Simon Clarke said he appreciated the “sheer weight of evidence” the Government had to sift through but insisted a year was too long.

He said: “Thousands of tenants are clinging on, under ultimately unsustainable circumstances, in the hope of the ‘meaningful and material’ reforms Government have indicated are required.

“The length of time to digest the consultation has not been wasted by the pubcos who put their disposal programmes into what we consider to be an asset stripping frenzy. A cursory glance at trade publication headlines tells it all - free of tie and managed house operators are investing and optimistic of the future, regardless of the Government’s deliberations, whilst pubcos and those operating tied estates are dis-investing and spiralling into decline and dragging their tenants down with them.”

Frustration

Adrian Bailey, chairman of the Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) committee, said: “There is a sense of frustration among publicans that they have been waiting so long and that has probably had an effect on how they view Parliament and politicians.

“While this may not be the kind of issue on which general elections are won or lost there are constituencies where disgruntled publicans are key to the area’s communication network. Their opinion could have a significant impact in those areas and at the moment that is all shaped by the debate over the statutory code.

“If there is no mention of this in the Queen’s speech we will be demanding to know why.”

Greg Mulholland, co-ordinator of the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign and chair of the Parliamentary save the Pub group, said: “We should have had an announcement from the Government by now, a full a year after BIS announced that they would introduce a statutory code of practice for the large pubcos and some seven months after the end of the consultation finished. It is clear that something or someone is delaying the announcement, but it must not be delayed any longer.”

Uncertainty
Andy Tighe, director of policy at the British, Beer and Pub Association, said: “Uncertainty for business is never helpful, but the length of this process reflects the complexity of the decision, and it is right that the Government considers very carefully before legislating.”

Jonathan Mail, head of public affairs at the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), said: "Time remains for the Government to fulfill it's commitment to ensure that the big pubcos act in a fair and reasonable manner. The Government will be announcing their plans for the next year in June's Queen's speech and we urge them to ensure pubco reform is included."

A spokeswoman for BIS said: "There has been, and continues to be, a high level of interest in the consultation on pub companies and tenants. We received over 1,100 written responses and more than 7,000 responses to the online survey.

“It is a complex issue and we want to consider carefully all the evidence that has been presented to us. We understand that those affected by the proposals need clarity from us.  It is equally important for those in the sector that we take the time to ensure our final proposals are proportionate and targeted.  We will give our response soon."

Related topics: Legislation

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