Agreement reached on pubs code confidentiality

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Arbitration transparency: the pubs code adjudicator and the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) have made an agreement on pubs code details
Arbitration transparency: the pubs code adjudicator and the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) have made an agreement on pubs code details

Related tags Pca Confidentiality

The pubs code adjudicator has agreed on principles for the publication of pubs code arbitration decisions with the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).

The BBPA had outlined a framework​ under which pubcos would agree to waive confidentiality, in a letter to Richard Harrington MP, the Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Minister, in June.

It listed measures the BBPA and six big pubcos – Admiral Taverns, Ei group, Greene King, Marston’s, Punch, and Star Pubs & Bars – wanted to see in place before agreeing to make arbitration decisions public.

It is not clear what exactly the agreed principles will mean for pubcos but the PCA said they will be consistent with the BBPA’s initial vision.

The PCA said it would publish details later in the autumn.

A spokesperson for the PCA said: "The pubs code adjudicator has now agreed with the BBPA on behalf of all the pub-owning businesses, the principles for the publication of code arbitration decisions.

“This will help to increase tied tenants’ understanding of what to expect when exercising their code rights. The PCA expects to publish the first of these later in the autumn."

Transparency satisfaction 

The spokesperson added: “We are satisfied that the approach delivers the level of transparency that all parties have been seeking, while respecting personal and commercially sensitive information.”

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: "Following further discussions, the six pub companies covered by the statutory code remain fully supportive of the publication of arbitration awards to provide greater transparency and clarity for all parties, and are hopeful this can now commence as soon as possible.”

Data published by the BBPA shows responses from pubcos to MRO applications and their outcomes, with some 668 full responses to MRO notices issued since the introduction of the code in August 2016.

Desired framework

Simmonds outlined the requirements earlier in the summer. She said: “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.”

Simmonds also asked that decisions be published in full and that commercially sensitive information for licensees or pub companies be redacted.

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said that the sector body had been working hard with pub companies, pressing for this "so we are pleased to see progress, with all of the pub companies covered by the code agreeing to a common set of principles to make arbitration decisions transparent".

Make details public

But she said it was important that the details of the principles are "made public promptly", to allow people to assess how this will work in practice and how effective it will be.

"UKH remains willing to work with the BBPA and other stakeholder bodies to ensure solutions are as fair, workable and transparent as possible. However, there are still concerns that flaws within the legislation cause delays in concluding MRO cases putting additional financial pressure on tenants. We highlighted this in our submission to the recent BEIS select committee and throughout our dialogue with key stakeholders." 

Nicholls highlighted areas of concern, revealed by the PCA compliance report, such as the low number of MRO cases and use of section 25 notices. "We maintain that the PCA’s key priority should be focusing on fast and effective arbitration decisions, including retrospective rulings, and clearly written guidance with clear precedents, so tenants are not financially disadvantaged," she said. 

"Despite the PCA’s welcome efforts to provide clarity on the pubs code, it remains an unwieldy piece of legislation which still requires a full review taking into account robust evidence and ensuring it delivers workable and timely solutions for all." 

Related topics Legislation

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