MPs have backed a House of Commons motion which requires the Government to commission an independent review of self regulation in the pub sector.
The move came after a debate in the Commons today in which MPs criticised the Government for rejecting proposals by the Business Innovation and Skills Committee (BISC), which included a call for a statutory code of practice to govern the relationship between pubcos and their licensees.
The vote followed a motion from BISC chairman Adrian Bailey. It means that the Government must set up an independent body to review the industry in autumn this year. Members of the body must be approved by BISC. If the independent body finds that self regulation is not working, it could pave the way for statutory regulation, and the possibility that licensees will be granted a free-of-tie option and open market rent reviews.
The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), which encouraged 5,000 of its members to contact their local MPs, asking them to support the motion, welcomed the news.
Mike Benner, Camra chief executive, said: "Camra is delighted that MPs from all parties have highlighted the inadequacy of the Government's attempts to tackle unfair business practices in the pub sector and that the Government is now obliged to commission an independent review into the matter. Following the success of this motion the Government now has a chance to think again and to consult on meaningful proposals to ensure the survival of many thousands of pubs.
"The large pub companies must be encouraged to provide their lessees with free of tie and guest beer options accompanied by an open market rent review. These steps would effectively self regulate the operation of tie agreements.
"The large pub companies have been living in the last chance saloon since 2004 during which time many thousands of valued community pubs have been lost forever while pub companies have failed to deliver meaningful self regulation."
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat MP Greg Mulholland, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group, tweeted after the vote: "The issue of pubco reform remains very much alive and on the political agenda. The Government badly miscalculated. Real reform remains an option."
But British Beer and Pub Association chief executive Brigid Mulholland condemned the vote: "We are disappointed that MPs have supported calls for further red tape for pubs. We have demonstrated that self-regulation is working. Our focus remains in delivering against the recent agreements we have made to enhance the Industry Framework Code, introduce a more effective mediation service and improve support to lessees and tenants. With the number of pub closures falling, further Government red tape for pubs risks choking off recovery - stifling growth and hitting jobs.
"The voluntary approach has enthused pub companies to go far beyond the Framework Code in their own Codes of Practice. What we need is more transparency and low cost ways to complain (PICAS) and better business support for would-be licensees to help them make a success of running a pub in a truly challenging economic climate. If Parliament could concentrate on reducing beer taxation, it will help publicans far more than any calls for a statutory code," she said.
By Neil Gerrard
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