Government launches first pubs code review

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Inaugural review: Kelly Tolhurst (right) revealed the first statutory review of the pubs code and its adjudicator on 30 April
Inaugural review: Kelly Tolhurst (right) revealed the first statutory review of the pubs code and its adjudicator on 30 April
Small business minister Kelly Tolhurst MP has revealed that the Government has launched its first statutory review of the pubs code and pubs code adjudicator.

The review will examine how the code has ensured that tied tenants are being treated fairly by large pub companies and whether it has operated effectively and proportionately in the period between its introduction in 2016 and 31 March 2019.

Spanning a 12-week period, the review and will invite the opinions and experiences of pub-operating businesses covered by the code, tied and previously tied tenants and those representing their interests, trade bodies and the pubs code adjudicator.

Anyone looking to contribute can share their thoughts via email, written letter, or completing a response form on the pubs code and pubs code adjudicator: statutory review website.

The review will also examine publicly available information and data, with a report on the review’s findings to be published after responses have been considered.

Ensuring a fair environment

In an exclusive interview with The Morning Advertiser​, small business minister Kelly Tolhurst – who replaced Richard Harrington MP as the minister responsible for overseeing the enforcement of the pubs code in November 2018 – explained that she was “committed to ensuring the review is based on good evidence,​ which includes survey data, statistics and allowing all those who have an interest in the code to tell us about their experience.”

Discussing the launch of the review, she explained: “We created the pubs code adjudicator in 2016 to ensure a fair environment for pub tenants and operators.

“This review will look closely at how the pubs code regulations and the role of the adjudicator have worked since introduction and we encourage stakeholders to share with us their views on what is working well, as well as what changes might make it even more effective.”

Tolhurst has previously been accused of showing a lack of understanding of the pubs code by British Pub Confederation chairman Greg Mulholland who, in March 2018, wrote to the minister​ to bemoan what he perceived to be a “worrying lack of understanding about the fundamental nature and purpose of the pubs code legislation”.

Valuable opportunity

Discussing the review, Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) commented: “The six companies covered by the pubs code have always been committed to working within both the letter and spirit of the legislation to support the success of leased and tenanted pubs and publicans alike.

“While there have been some challenges with parts of the implementation of the code for all involved, the BBPA and the companies covered by the code continue to work closely with the adjudicator and other stakeholders to resolve these.

“The BBPA welcomes this consultation as a valuable opportunity to assess the ongoing impact of the code and the effectiveness of the adjudicator, as well as to make suggestions for improvements.”

Tom Stainer,  chief executive of The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) added: "The introduction of the pubs code could have marked a turning point for England's community pubs but, since it came in, we've seen pub companies use every trick in the book to prevent the legislation from achieving what it set out to do.

"When Parliament brought in the pubs code its intention was for Market Rent Only to be a realistic option, and that simply hasn't happened.

"This review is therefore essential and welcome, but for communities to stop losing pubs to predatory, short-term business practices, it must lead to meaningful reforms and to a code that is fit for purpose."

UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls commented: “There are clearly concerns, many of which are shared by our members, that flaws in the legislation have caused delays since the introduction of the pubs code.

“The priority of the pubs code adjudicator should be on focusing on fast and effective arbitration decisions with clear precedents.

"The statutory review of the code could provide us with some much needed clarity to ensure the code and adjudicator can be as effective as possible, and provide timely support for tenants.”

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