Legislation

Campaigners respond to Pubco Insider: "Investment is critical, but where has it been for the last few decades?"

By Simon Clarke

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: British pub confederation, Public house, Campaign for real ale

Campaigners respond to Pubco Insider: "Investment is critical, but where has it been for the last few decades?"
There was quite a bit that was inaccurate about the Pubco Insider 'opinion', argues Si Clarke.

The major 'error' outlined to tenants as potentially penalising publicans was - it transpired after we sought legal opinion - not as significant as we were told by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

In fact, the British Pub Confederation's legal advice was that, while clumsily drafted, the regulation would have served its purpose. There was no need to 'pull' the regulations for this reason.

As a result what has happened is that any tenants with a MRO opportunity between 26 May and when the Code comes into effect have now almost certainly been penalised.

Honour

It seems the pub owning companies have refused to honour the intent of parliament for the Code to take effect on 26 May and backdate any opportunities that may have arisen in the interim period - this comes as no surprise.

It is very unfortunate that parties were not consulted before the Code was pulled as the delay, for this reason, may have been avoided.
The issue of significant price increase was not so monumental - granted, Code wording was vague. But the British Pub Confederation consider that could have been cleared up in guidance from an independent and impartial Pubs Code Adjudicator - which, of course, it looks like we're not going to get.

Investment

We can agree that investment in pubs is critical but where has it been for the last couple of decades? There has been very little from pub owning companies. The Confederation hear grand figures banded about all the time, but in reality there are a handful of tied pubs that have had any meaningful investment from their pub company.

I don't dispute money has been spent, but I consider this will generally be temporary support of a tenant unnecessarily brought to their knees or when a pub is vacated, and it will be a tiny proportion of the profits reaped - and the deposit from the very publican who has been pushed into bankruptcy that really foot the bill.

The lack of investment and unfair harvesting of tied tenants earning potential has seen countless pubs close and, as the estimate is an average pub employs 10 people, we can safely say the existing model has contributed to the 10,000 pubs closed and 100,000 jobs lost.

Good start

My 'opinion' is that the regulation of MRO waiver is not perfect but a good start on which to build tighter controls and avoid gaming in the future.
The fact is the Code was pulled and, like it or not, the Government have sought to amend regulation wording to add clarity and avoid dispute. I think with the constant chopping and changing of BIS personnel that useful dialogue was lost and the delay possibly a result. 

We should all be doing what we can now to see the Code implemented and the Secretary of State undertake a damage limitation exercise to rectify, as best he can, the breach of his statutory duty to ensure the Code would be in place by 26 May 2016. We urge the Minister to ensure the Code is given top priority in the forthcoming few weeks and in place as soon as possible. 

This is absolutely about dragging feet, perhaps not intentionally by the Government, they may have been bamboozled into pulling the Code on a technicality that was capable of being overcome without delay.

Whilst we all want to stand by an appropriate Code we all know its interpretation and content will have to be clarified and, if necessary, adjusted with experience of use.

Simon Clarke is secretary of the British Pub Confederation, CAMRA campaigner of the year and licensee of the Eagle, Battersea.

Related topics: Legislation

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