Pubs code

Punch accused of ‘scaremongering’

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Punch Taverns MRO Pubs code scaremongering

Related tags Legal action Human rights

Pubco threatens legal action over MRO.

Punch Taverns has been accused of “scaremongering” and making “bizarre” statements after threatening legal action over plans for a market rent-only (MRO) option in the new statutory pubs code.

Speaking last week after the pubco’s half-year results, executive chairman Steve Billingham said he was “less concerned about the pubs code in general”, but labelled MRO as “the one cloud that is hanging over us” and reignited the idea of taking action on the grounds that the code is a contravention of human rights legislation.

Billingham said the action was still being discussed. “If we issue a legal challenge it has to be within six months of the bill getting royal assent, but we need to carefully consider the pros and cons of doing it.”

Asked if Punch had engaged with other pubcos to discuss joint action, he said: “When we have worked out what we want to do it’s sensible to talk to others, but at the moment we are looking at what is right for us.”


Fair Deal for Your Local campaigner Simon Clarke accused Punch of trying to “scare officials at the Department for Business Innovation & Skills” to draw up a weaker code. “It is just Punch keeping up the pressure, they are scaremongering. The behaviour of all the pubcos will have a direct impact on the robustness of the code,” he told the PMA.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, said she could not see grounds for action. “Much of the detail still needs to be determined in the next year, so it seems bizarre to be talking about legal action when we still don’t know the final shape of the code,” she said.

The British Beer & Pub Association distanced itself from the threat of legal action, saying it was for individual companies to make a decision on the matter.

MRO architect and Save the Pub Group chair Greg Mulholland described the threat as “disappointing but not surprising”. He added: “For Punch to talk about their ‘human rights’ is laughable but also offensive to many former and current Punch tenants.”

The Punch Tenant Network, formed last year by Chris Lindesay, licensee of the Sun Inn at Dunsfold, Surrey, urged the company to up its communication with tenants. “The bill was about fairness and about the share of risk and reward which is being ignored. We would like to talk to Punch about what we can do without going down the MRO route.

“If MRO is such a massive threat then what are the alternatives? One option might be to speak to tenants to ask what they would want to stop them pushing the MRO button."

Related topics Punch Pubs & Co

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