Election 2010: what the parties say about business

29 April 2010
Election 2010: what the parties say about business

What more will you do to ensure that the balance of power between pub companies and their licensees is redressed, as recommended last year by the Business Enterprise and Skills Committee's report last year?

Jeremy Hunt, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Conservative) We are keen to see the industry take the lead on this and find a solution. If it has failed to do so by June 2011, we believe that the Government of the day ought to consult on putting this on a statutory basis.

Labour Last year the committee asked us to consider a reference to the Competition Commission (CC) to look at the imbalance in power between pub companies and licensees. In its latest report the committee has asked to keep the possibility of a reference on the agenda. We are encouraging the various parties to work together. We are monitoring progress and have not ruled out a reference to the CC in the future.

John Thurso, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills, Liberal Democrats We agree with the Select Committee: the pubcos have too much power and they have refused to voluntarily bring in reforms.

Is compulsory legislation to regulate this relationship necessary?

JH (Conservative) As above.

Labour We recognise that many pubs and clubs are under pressure. The industry has had a number of opportunities to introduce reform. The BIS Committee is giving the industry one last chance to demonstrate that reforms that benefit all parties are delivered by June 2011. Labour strongly supports this view and hopes that the reforms take place on a voluntary basis but stand ready should further intervention be necessary.

JT (Liberal Democrats) The issues facing the leased pub sector should be referred to the Competition Commission. The commission should consider whether there should be a maximum limit to the number of pubs owned by any one pubco, including both nationally and in any one region/area.

Will you appoint a dedicated pubs minister?

JH (Conservative) There should certainly be a clear lead in government to draw together the different strands of government policy. The Government's recent appointment of a pubs minister, after 13 years of neglect of the industry, smacks of gimmickry but their belated recognition of the need for help for the industry is to be welcomed.

Labour In January, the prime minister asked John Healey (housing and planning minister) to lead work across government designed to help and support Britain's community pubs. Labour recently announced a package of measures designed to provide practical support to community pubs - including funding for business support to make pubs more successful and help for communities to buy their local pub to keep it running. Some pubs will also benefit from the increase in Small Business Rate relief announced in the 2010 Budget.

JT (Liberal Democrats) No, we believe that change comes about by action, not by appointing additional government ministers.

Should the beer tie be abolished?

JH (Conservative) We would like to see reform of the beer tie to ensure a fair deal for both consumers and publicans.

Labour We are not advocating the abolition of the beer tie. But we do want to see reform. Pub companies should allow lessees to choose to be tied or tie-free. And those pubs that are tied should be given the right to source a guest beer out of tie.

JT (Liberal Democrats) There's nothing intrinsically wrong with the tie. Well managed, it can provide real benefits to the pub and those people who use those pubs. But we think beer ties have got out of control: they are often a very one-sided bargain and the balance needs to be redressed. For these reasons we think that the issue of the beer tie needs to be referred to the Competition Commission immediately. Reforms could include giving all tenants the right to buy one guest beer; giving tenants the choice to opt out of the tie and a new code of practice to uphold the principle that the tied tenant should be no worse off than if free of tie.

Do you have plans for introducing food labelling on restaurant menus? If so, what format will it take?

JH (Conservative) We have no plans to introduce this.

Labour No.

JT (Liberal Democrats) We support the principle of providing consumers with sufficient information to make informed healthy-eating choices. However, we have no plans to introduce mandatory food labelling on restaurant menus. A prescriptive approach to labelling of restaurant menus would be a significant additional burden on small restaurants where dishes are changed frequently. We would prefer to see a voluntary, consumer-driven, approach supported by better education of healthy eating choices.

Election 2010: What will the parties do for hospitality?>>

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