The letter, dated 27 June, follows news reported by The Morning Advertiser that six pub operating businesses – Admiral Taverns, Ei group, Greene King, Marston’s, Punch and Star Pubs & Bars – had written to Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) minister, Richard Harrington, agreeing to waive their right to confidentiality in decisions made by the pubs code adjudicator (PCA).
It outlines measures that the BBPA and the six aforementioned pubcos would like to see implemented before agreements to waive confidentiality are finalised.
A letter from the BBPA, seen by The Morning Advertiser, states that following discussions between the BBPA and the pubcos in question “we are happy for all arbitration decisions to be made public providing the following framework is in place:
“The PCA must produce clear legal advice that to publish the details of arbitration decisions is consistent with the body of law on arbitration and CIArb rules.
“The tenant or lessee must agree before the case is considered, that the decision and details of the case will be made public.
“There must be consistency of approach, there must be no 'cherry picking' of decisions from either side. It must apply to all arbitration decisions irrespective of outcome. In the case of an appeal, publication should only happen after the appeal is decided.
“Decisions must be published in full and not in summary. Given the PCA view that every pub is different this element is crucial so that all parties can view the specific circumstances in full.
“Commercially sensitive information for licensees or pub companies must be redacted.
“The PCA must take advice on the implications of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on the publication of decisions which may include personal data.”
Provision of 'clear guidance'
Simmonds’ letter, which was copied to the PCA and the chair of the BEIS Committee, continues: “As we discussed at our meeting, we also believe that the PCA should accredit the standard MRO agreements offered by each pub company as being compliant or require changes to be made to make them compliant.
“These agreements should then be reviewed by the PCA and re-accredited on an annual basis. This would allow for amendments to reflect changes in the market and ensure the principle of no worse off than free of tie reflects current market practice.
“The PCA could then provide clear guidance to licensee groups confirming which form of agreement is compliant and a concise list of variables which are allowed. Pub companies would then publish their accredited standard MRO agreements.
“Finally, as we also discussed, the success of the code should not be judged solely on the numbers of MRO agreements granted. The pubs code is much broader than just MRO and provides a range of protections for licensees. For those choosing to consider the MRO option, the fact that most licensees opt to negotiate a new deal rather than proceed with MRO reflects the many benefits of the leased and tenanted model, which often become more apparent when a licensee compares their current tied agreement with the reality of a commercial MRO lease agreement.”