York CAMRA’s Nick Love raises a glass to a law which will protect publicans from unfair treatment by pub companies
In a very significant step forward for campaigners wanting to reform the way pub companies operate, a new Statutory Code of Practice was announced in the Queen’s Speech today (June 4).
The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent in March 2015.
The bill will introduce the code of practice for the first time, and with it a new independent adjudicator.
The code comprises two parts. Firstly, a core code protecting all tied tenants and giving them the right to request a rent review when beer prices increase significantly or their circumstances change substantially.
All tied tenants will also have the right to take disputes to the new independent adjudicator.
Secondly, an enhanced code will require pub companies owning 500 or more tied pubs to offer parallel free-of-tie rent assessment to potential or existing tied tenants upon request if negotiations fail.
Vitally – and this is where I think legislation does not go far enough – the assessment will be for guidance only.
It will not entitle tenants to go free-of-tie. This must surely be the next logical step by government.
Business Secretary Vince Cable gave his reasons for this reform: “The evidence we have received shows that, while there is widespread responsible practice in the industry, many tied tenants continue to face unfair treatment and hardship.
“Self-regulation has not been able to effect the step change desperately needed in the industry to ensure that all tied tenants are treated fairly.”
The good news then is that hopefully we will see an adjudicator with real teeth making sure that licensees running pubs owned by large pubcos will not be financially disadvantaged by paying rents hugely in excess of what their free of tie counterparts are paying.
This should help alleviate some of the hardship that is rife amongst tied publicans – with 84% earning less than £15,000 per year.
The bad news
The bad news is that two key pillars of reform that the likes of CAMRA and Fair Deal for Your Local have been campaigning for are still missing.
The free of tie option after a rent review and the scrapping of the beer tie are not yet included.
As I said in my last article that accompanied the interview with Paul Crossman – a huge new market would open up for the microbreweries that are the vanguard of the present beer revolution.
This in turn would give the public better choice at competitive prices and the whole industry would work to the advantage of the vast majority of producers and consumers.
Incidentally – the Paul Crossman interview was so compelling that it went viral – with CAMRA giving it pride of place on their national website.
We should not be too downhearted though about the legislation in its current form.
This is a very big step forward and a victory for everyone that has worked so hard to see this happen.
What we have to do now is make sure it goes through parliament and receives royal assent.
It nevertheless gives us all more campaigning to do however, to deliver the additional reforms that I have highlighted above.
For now though, perhaps just tonight, we’ll all take a break from campaigning and raise a glass to people power and a better future for thousands of tied licensees in the UK.