Pressure on PCA ramps up after select committee letter

By Claire Churchard

- Last updated on GMT

Rachel Reeves: chair of the BEIS select committee asks PCA for progress update
Rachel Reeves: chair of the BEIS select committee asks PCA for progress update

Related tags Pca paul newby Report

Pressure on the office of the pubs code adjudicator (PCA) to account for its performance increased earlier this month following a letter from MP Rachel Reeves, who chairs the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee.

Reeves has written to PCA Paul Newby emphasising that his office is under scrutiny and that campaigners have raised serious concerns about tied tenants' access to the market rent only option (MRO), which is dealt with under the pubs code.

She wrote: “You will recall that the previous [BEIS] committee expressed concerns to the secretary of state about your own recruitment and about the integrity of the new regulatory framework.

“Since I was elected chair in July, concerns have been raised with me by tenants’ representatives about the administrative convenience and effectiveness of the new MRO application process and whether the code is operating as Parliament intended.”

Reeves requested “factual information” and “your own assessment of recent progress” from Newby to “assist the committee in considering whether to inquire into the operation of the code at this stage”.

Reeves wrote that she was particularly interested in knowing the number of tenants who had obtained new MRO agreements, and how many tenants had been through the entire MRO process and obtained an independently-assessed rent.

She also asked Newby for the number of arbitration decisions he had made, how many applications were awaiting decision, and what steps he had taken to ensure decisions were timely.

TheMorning Advertiser​ interviewed Newby​ after the PCA published a damning report​ (called the Market Rent Only Verification Exercise​) that revealed pub-owning businesses (POB) were blocking tied tenants’ access to MRO and going against the spirit of the pubs code.

At the time the adjudicator said he had contacted the POBs for their response to the report’s findings and would provide an update when he had received their answers. So far there has been no news, despite Newby’s hopes that he would have something to share in autumn 2017. 

Reeves’ letter highlighted the need for this information, asking Newby: “What assessment have you made about the working of the code and its enforcement following the verification exercise you commissioned which reported in August? What representations have you made to ministers on the effectiveness of the code and the way that the MRO process is being followed by pub-owning companies and tenants?”

Reeves told Newby, “it would helpful to have a response by 26 October”.

The PCA was contacted for comment but had not responded by the time this article was published.

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