Steve Beasant

Liberal Democrat Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Great Grimsby and Councillor for the East Marsh Learn more

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Tenants and pub campaigners slam BIS for acting in bad faith and demand dodgy draft pubs code is scrapped and rewritten before consultation can begin

by Steve Beasant on 11 November, 2015

Tenants and pub campaigners have criticised the draft pubs code published recently by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, saying the draft code is unacceptable and must be scrapped

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Campaigners outside Parliament last year for a Fair Deal for Your Local rally

Their views were echoed today by MPs including Chair of the parliamentary Save the Pub Group, Greg Mulholland MP, who also coordinated the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign. Greg Mulholland said the draft code is “entirely unacceptable”, as it does not abide by the legislation approved by the House of Commons last November. Campaigners accused the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) of acting in “bad faith”, ignoring the Commons legislation and advice of tenants’ groups and pub campaigners in favour of creating a code which supported big businesses.

Greg Mulholland also said that Anna Soubry, the Minister for Small Business, “clearly doesn’t realise the reality of the code as it is drafted”, as it failed to create a fair balance between pub tenants and pub companies. He also said that the draft code “must be scrapped and a new one drafted”, which effectively addressed the balance between pub companies and tenants.

Among other deviations from the bill approved by the House of Commons, the draft pubs code negates the Market Rent Only (MRO) option by making it very difficult to trigger, a core part of the legislation strengthening tenants’ position. The MRO option in the draft is not compatible with the MRO option voted by MPs into the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill last November. Campaigners have said what ministers are now proposing goes against the will of Parliament and commitments previously made by ministers and civil servants.

Also questioning Anna Soubry on the pubs code were fellow MPs Louise Haigh, Michael Fabricant, and Bill Esterson. Haigh said that the draft code as it stands would mean “very few tenants will be free from the pubco profiteers”, with Fabricant warning about pubs having to close because of high rents. Bill Esterson welcomed that parallel rent assessment (PRA) was now back on the table after being left out when the draft code was initially published and echoed the view that ministers had acted in “bad faith”.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Greg Mulholland MP said:

“Tenants’ groups and the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign have contacted me to say that they believe that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has acted in bad faith, and that the draft code of practice for pubs does not even abide by the legislation and entirely negates the market rent only option. They will be asking the Minister tomorrow to withdraw the code, which is entirely unacceptable, and engage with them to come up with something that accords with the will of the House as it was expressed last November”

Responding, Minister for Small Business Anna Soubry MP said:

“I am very disappointed to hear all that. Let me make it clear that I have stood up against planned closures of public houses in my constituency and railed against companies such as Greene King. Yes, I have, and I have fought for other pubs. Hon. Members can look on my website for details. That is not the point. It is really important that we strike the right balance on this issue. I say to the hon. Gentleman that the parallel rent assessment provision, which I know he has not always been in favour of-I think he changed his mind at the last moment-is not in the code. The noble Lords have made their concerns very clear to Baroness Neville-Rolfe, and as a result of my conversations with her, that particular proposal will go into the second part of the consultation.”

Commenting afterwards, Greg Mulholland said:

“Ministers cannot proceed with the draft pubs code as it stands. Currently it negates the market rent only option and in doing so, goes against the legislation voted through by both houses of parliament. BIS have acted in bad faith and clearly taken representations from the unscrupulous pubcos themselves. They need to sit down and consult with tenant groups and pub campaigners to create a pubs code that is both fair and what parliament voted for. This was the view expressed by many MPs today.”

Dave Mountford from the Pubs Advisory service added:

“Whilst we are disappointed that Government have chosen to make fundamental changes to the Bill, we are pleased that they would appear to have realised their error following on from questions in the commons. PRA is a fundamental part of the MRO process and we look forward to consulting with BIS officials on a meaningful document which provides the no worse off goal.”

Inez Ward from Justice from Licensees also said:

“The proposed code, in its current form, will fail to deliver that a tied tenant should be no worse off than a Free of Tie tenant and that is wholly unacceptable.”

Simon Clarke of the Fair Pint Campaign added:

“We believe the Government consultation proposals cannot deliver the Act’s primary principles and can easily be games allowing the worst pub owning companies to carry on with business as usual, continuing the pub scam that has devastated the pubs sector.”

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