Pubcos waive confidentiality rights over MRO

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Important step: pubcos' 'commitment to clarity and transparency' is welcome
Important step: pubcos' 'commitment to clarity and transparency' is welcome

Related tags: Pca paul newby, Pubco, Pubs code, Mro option

The six pub-operating businesses (POBs) covered by the pubs code have agreed to waive their right to confidentiality in market-rent-only (MRO) option arbitration decisions.

The six companies – Admiral Taverns, Ei Group, Greene King, Marston’s, Punch and Star Pubs & Bars – have written to Richard Harrington MP, Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) minister, agreeing to waive their right to confidentiality in decisions made by the pubs code adjudicator (PCA). 

Earlier this week, two pubcos faced criticism during a session of the BEIS committee. Deputy pubs code adjudicator (DPCA) Fiona Dickie was outspoken over the approach of certain pubcos and their refusal to agree to waiver confidentiality in arbitration rulings. She said that while Admiral and Star Pubs & Bars had the “most willingness”, Ei Group and Greene King had been “intransigent.”

PCA Paul Newby said that he was working to persuade all the companies involved to agree because keeping the awards confidential was “plainly not right”.

Under the Arbitration Act, decisions must remain confidential, unless all parties to a decision agree to publication.

The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said the move by POBs would help in providing clarity and transparency for the whole sector.

It also said that since the pubs code came into effect in July 2016, the six companies had been working constructively with all industry stakeholders to ensure that the spirit and the letter of the code was put into practice. 

“The decision of the pub companies to waive their rights in this respect aims to reassure the whole sector about their commitment to clarity and transparency. It is something that has been under discussion for some time, but clearly there are detailed legal hurdles that need to be overcome,” said BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds. 

“The proactive agreement of the six companies to agree to this approach is an important step. It highlights the fact that we remain committed to working with tenants and the PCA to ensure that the code is delivered as parliament intended.

“We have also suggested that each company MRO agreement is accredited by the PCA to ensure that the system is more open, transparent and provides clear guidance to licensees.”

The PCA welcomed the move.

“The PCA has been strongly arguing the importance of POBs waiving confidentiality to ensure a level playing field for tenants, especially over MRO, and so welcomes the fact that they are now moving on this issue,” said a spokesperson for PCA.   

“This is a step in the right direction but the POBs have a number of caveats to their offer and we will be considering these and responding to them.”

The British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) and UKHospitality also responded to the decision of waiving rights.

BII chief executive Mike Clist said: “We welcome the decision of the six pub companies that have jointly written to Richard Harrington MP, BEIS minister to waive their right to confidentiality in respect of arbitration decisions made by the PCA.

“Transparency of awards made by the PCA is, we believe, one of the ways that will speed up decisions that can only benefit those tenants applying for MRO.”

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls echoed the comments of the BII and said the move would bring a sense of transparency and clarity to the process.

“The chief issue and biggest barrier to progress remains the time being taken to work through disputes," Nicholls said. "The PCA is still taking far too long and the process is in desperate need of speeding up because businesses are at risk of going bust while cases are being heard.”

“UKHospitality is ready and willing to continue to work with all parties to facilitate the process and bring about speedy resolutions.”

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Related topics: Legislation

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