Pubs Code Adjudicator

Government backing re-ignites Newby row

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Mixed: the response to the Government's backing of the PCA has reignited a debate
Mixed: the response to the Government's backing of the PCA has reignited a debate

Related tags: Paul newby, Paul martin newby, Public house

Government support for the backing of Pubs Code Adjudicator Paul Newby has sparked heated debate, with one campaigner branding it a “whitewash”.

Newby continues to enjoy the backing of the trade associations, which welcomed the announcement of support for the Pubs Code Adjudicator (PCA) by Greg Clark​, the Secretary of State for the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Clark disagreed with a letter from chair of the BEIS committee Iain Wright​ that the appointment process for the PCA should be reopened​.

Chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) Brigid Simmonds said although it was a Government matter, she was pleased with the announcement.

She added: “This was always a matter for the Government rather than pub operators and trade associations, but it is good to see an end to any potential uncertainty over the role.

“We are committed to continued constructive working with Paul Newby and his office.”

The Association of Licensing Multiple Retailers (ALMR) also took a positive stance on the backing and said Newby’s experience was good and the affirmation had ended a period of uncertainty.

Chief executive Kate Nicholls said Newby had the full support of the ALMR and added: “Paul has experience working in the licensed hospitality sector and has a good understanding of the issues at hand.

“Paul also has good experience in valuation and arbitration and can bring this experience to bear on this technical and complex issue.

“The introduction of the code and Paul’s appointment brought to an end a long period of uncertainty for the sector. Any changes at this stage would simply undermine confidence and usher in another period of instability, which is the last thing pubs need at this time.

“Paul has the full support of the ALMR and we are keen to continue working closely with him to ensure stability for our members and the wider sector.”

Getting the job in hand

Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations (FLVA) operations director Martin Caffrey agreed with the BBPA and the ALMR on their thoughts on the adjudicator.

He said: “We have supported Paul’s appointment from square one so we are happy and pleased the appointment has been ratified.

“We are looking forward to getting the job in hand and getting the code up and working.”

The office of the PCA told The Morning Advertiser ​there was nothing to discuss on Clark's response to Newby's appointment​.

A spokesperson said: "The PCA has noted the Secretary of State's response to Mr Wright.  This letter makes the position very clear and the PCA will not be making further comment."

Campaigners including the British Pub Confederation (BPC) attended the committee meeting this week and raised concerns about a potential conflict of interest because Newby has ties to property agent Fleurets.

Chair of the Parliamentary Save the Pub Group and of the BPC Greg Mulholland said: “The Government’s whitewash of Paul Newby’s clear and disqualifying conflicts of interest is dishonest and sinister.

“The BPC presented clear evidence of Mr Newby’s ongoing financial links to the very pubcos he has a statutory duty to regulate, yet having taken some four months to reply to a Parliamentary Select Committee, the Secretary of State merely says he isn’t going to "reopen" the matter.

“This is an affront to a Parliamentary Select Committee, but also a disgraceful attempt to brush the failures of the Government in this recruitment under the carpet.  

“Greg Clark is doing the political equivalent of putting his hands over his eyes and ears and seeking to deny the reality of this situation.

“It is extraordinary and deeply worrying that ministers either cannot or refuse to see these significant conflicts of interest and keep saying things that simply are not true."

Mulholland claimed Newby had been “arrogantly ignoring” tenant’s requests to appoint someone else to their cases.

He said: “The whole situation is a mess and one that will not go away as long as the conflicted Mr Newby remains in post and every decision he makes will be questioned and challenged.”

The PCA responded to Mulholland’s claims and said it was unable to comment on specific cases.

He added: "The PCA is working hard to put the necessary arrangements in place to support all tied pub tenants covered by the Code.  The PCA cannot comment on specific arbitration cases which are confidential proceedings.”

Disappointing yet predictable

Secretary of the Independent Pub Confederation and member of the Fair Pint Campaign Simon Clarke said the response was disappointing yet predictable which was undermining for the pub legislation.

Clarke added: “Sadly, it smacks of trying to brush over the mistakes of the initial appointment of Paul Newby and makes it all the more difficult for tied tenants to place any faith in the new legislation which ultimately will put tenants off using it.

“Mr Newby's continued presence remains a significant hurdle, discouraging tied tenants to even consider using the pubs code.

“Despite there being a clear legal test to establish perception of bias, Government have instead sought to ignore it, presumably hoping things will settle down, but in fact condoning business as usual from the pub-owning businesses, with what many tenants consider "the pubcos man" in the position of ultimate power.

He also said the PCA’s appointment was “ultimately the fault of a previous secretary of state” but Clark had “effectively compounded the error and accepted full responsibility”.

Co-founder of the Pubs Advisory Service Chris Wright told The Morning Advertiser ​it was the Government’s attitude which bothered him most.

He added: “Whenever pub tenants are involved, the Government takes a nannying view. We were consulted, gave them our response and they didn't listen.

“We deserve better as a sector. We need to be demanding better from the business department.

“There needs to be more intelligent debate from Government; we don't need them already making their minds up before asking the tenants. We have seen that repeated and repeated."

He added that Newby’s appointment was more of a hindrance than a help to the trade, along with the way the pubs code is being interpreted.

Wright said: “This sector is integral to British life. Why is it such a problem for Greg Clarke to treat this trade with the respect it deserves?”

Related topics: Legislation

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