Greg Mulholland MP, Chair of the parliamentary Save the Pub group and coordinator of the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign, will present to the House of Commons a petition with nearly 45,000 signatures calling on Government to introduce a pubs watchdog.
The signatures were collected by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and the petition calls on “Government to stick to its promise to introduce a Pubs Watchdog to prevent valued pubs from being placed at risk of closure due to unfair practices in the pub sector.”
Mr Mulholland praised CAMRA’s work, saying:
“CAMRA have done a great job to collect this very significant number of signatures. This petition further highlights the pub scandal that is seeing hardworking publicans struggling around the country.
“A pubs watchdog is urgently needed to govern the behaviour of large pub companies so that publicans are treated fairly by ensuring that rents and wholesale prices are reasonable. The nearly 45,000 petitioners request the House of Commons urges the Government to stick to its promise and introduce a pubs watchdog to protect valued pubs from the risk of closure.”
With 26 pubs closing every week, Mulholland and Fair Deal for Your Local campaigners have long pushed for government to bring forward pubco reform by introducing a statutory code to govern the relationship between pub companies and their tenants and lessees, and also to allow a market rent-only option.
Following a consultation launched by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), over 8,000 responses were received and BIS ministers promised a further response in new year. However campaigners have been kept waiting nearly five months into the New Year. In a renewed effort to get Government to help struggling publicans, CAMRA campaigners earlier also presented the petition to BIS.
The Government committed in January 2013 to introduce a statutory code of practice for the large pubcos to enshrine in law the principle that a tied licensee should not be worse off than a free-of-tie licensee and also that there should be an overriding principle of ‘fair dealing’. However the Government have not yet announced when the code will be introduced and how these principles will be delivered.
210 MPs support the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign (www.fairdealforyourlocal.com) and the early day motion calling for the Government to introduce the market rent-only option has more signatures than any other this session (http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/57). There is majority support in the House of Commons for the market rent-only option, originally suggested by the cross-party BIS Select Committee and backed by the Federation of Small Businesses, Forum of Private Business, and nine other pub sector groups.
Commenting, CAMRA’s National Chairman, Colin Valentine said:
“It is absolutely vital that the Government disarms the ticking time bomb threatening the nation’s pubs. CAMRA is demanding the introduction of a Pubs Watchdog to rule on disputes between licensees and pubcos, plus a guest beer right and a market rent only option for tied licensees. These measures are essential in order to create a level playing field for licensees, ensuring those tied to the large pubcos are no worse off than those that are free of tie.”
Chief Executive of the Forum of Private Business, Phil Orford, added:
“The number of signatories on this petition demonstrates the importance of the issue, which has remained untackled for too long. The government has a golden opportunity to address the concerns of tied landlords and we urge them to do so.”
Clive Davenport, Enterprise Chairman at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:
“Our research shows significant benefits to jobs, investment and microbreweries from allowing pubs more freedom. We therefore back the call for a statutory regulator, which will help tied pubs finally compete on a level playing field, and reach their full economic potential.”