Pub campaign groups have welcomed calls for MPs to back a parliamentary motion on the Government to free landlords from restrictive tied arrangements imposed by pub companies.
The Forum of Private Business warned that the voluntary industry codes of practice introduced in recent years were not working and many pub companies still had a hold over their tenants, who often found themselves tied into unfavourable contracts and subsequently struggle to control costs.
It has now urged ministers to support the Early Day Motion (EDM), tabled by Greg Mulholland MP, chairman of the Parliamentary Save the Pub Group, which calls on ministers to embrace recent recommendations made by the Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee on Pub Companies.
The committee recommended that the Government introduces a statutory code of practice, including a condition that over a period of time all new lessees should be offered a free-of-tie lease with an open market rent review based on Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors' guidance.
The EDM, which pushes for a consultation timetable outlining how the proposed reforms would be implemented, points out that twice as many tied pubs are closing as free-of-tie pubs, and calls for a guest beer option for lessees who choose to remain within tied arrangements.
The measures would help prevent the closure of many community pubs by making rent fairer and allowing tied licensees to buy beer and products on the open market at competitive prices, stimulating the pub industry and the UK economy, the motion argued.
"Seven years after the first inquiry took place, it is clear that pub industry self-regulation is not working to prevent large pub companies from mistreating landlords," Phil McCabe, FPB senior policy adviser said.
"We need tougher regulation and a more robust code, overseen by an adjudicator that gives them a genuine free-of-tie option, greater protection and allows the British pub to flourish once more. We are calling on all MPs who care about local pubs in their constituencies to sign this motion and to urge the Government to take up the committee's recommendations without delay."
Mike Benner, Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) chief executive, said: "Too many of the UK's pubs are blighted by the actions of the large pub companies whose business model has been so reliant on exploiting a position of power to the cost of pub licensees, communities and the consumer.
"The committee's recommendations seek an end to barriers to growth in the pub sector, a culture of inflexibility and artificially inflated beer prices. We now urge the Government to show it's on the consumer's side by following through on its promise to take action on the back of these recommendations."
Steve Corbett, a spokesman for pressure group Fair Pint, added: "We want MPs to sign up to the motion but also to write to the business secretary, Vince Cable, asking him to implement the BIS Select Committee's recommendations, which would give publicans the chance to become free-of-tie. This would breathe much-needed life into a pubco-ravaged sector and should be done as a matter of urgency."
By Helen Gilbert
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