Concerns were raised after business minister Anna Soubry annouced Newby’s appointment in the House of Commons last week and said he had “already started work” and “has been very helpful... in making sure that we have the pubs code up and running”.
A Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) spokesman told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser (PMA): “Paul Newby has not been involved in pro-ducing the Government response or final draft set of regulations. Following his decision to accept the role as pubs code adjudicator, Paul has met with BIS officials to discuss how he would like to run his office. Officials have met with and briefed Mr Newby on the pubs code to familiarise him with key aspects ahead of him taking up this important role.”
However, the department remained quiet on claims from campaigners that Newby’s appointment potentially broke conflict of interest guidance from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), of which he is a member.
Newby will have the power to arbitrate individual disputes about breaches of the code, due to take effect at the end of May, including disputes on rent and market rent-only options, and to provide redress. He will also investigate suspected systemic breaches of the code across the sector.
Members of the Fair Pint campaign have argued his work as a surveyor at Fleurets representing pubcos including Punch and Enterprise leaves him in breach of the guidelines.
In a letter to the minister, campaigners said: “The issue here is not what you or indeed what anyone in the House thinks of him, it is the perception of conflicts of interest that may be held by the parties to any dispute he is to preside over. This issue raises serious concerns about the practical application of the legislation.
“The only way we can see Mr Newby demonstrating his professionalism and integrity is to resign and withdraw from this process, in accordance with the rules of ethics of the professional bodies he is a member of.”
Shadow business innovation and skills minister Bill Esterson has also called for Newby to resign, saying he does not have tenants’ trust.
A BIS spokesperson confirmed Newby would leave his Fleurets job to take up the adjudicator role on 2 May and said he would be “held to the high standards required of all public officials” in his time in office, but refused to comment further.
A spokesman from RICS said it did not see cause for concern. “Chartered surveyors are expected to demonstrate the highest professional standards and act within the RICS code of conduct. We have no reason to believe he is failing to meet these standards. On the evidence we have seen to date, this does not appear to be an issue of conflict,” he said