Pubco Action from Lib Dem Ministers

Someone must be reading this blog…!

On Saturday I wrote a piece about the welcome resurgence of interest in the campaign to reform the failing pubcos, alongside the fire sale of Admiral Taverns and against the backdrop of uncertainty about the future of top Reading real ale pub The Retreat (among many others).

Three days later, welcome news that at long last, the call for action is being heeded by the Lib Dem Government, with Vince Cable’s announcement that the Government intends to take action to reform the large pub companies by consulting on the introduction of a statutory code enforced by an independent adjudicator. This will include a vital “fair dealing” provision to prevent pubcos exploiting publicans with high rents and high tied beer prices.

The proposal doesn’t include the free of tie option, though I am not the only person to see that as an inevitable consequence.

But the infamous revolving door of BIS that saw the now utterly-discredited pubco lobbyists, the British Beer & Pub Association, allowed to write documents for the Government has been stopped after the departure of Ed Davey from BIS. Subsequent Ministers have looked at the evidence and it is to the great credit of Vince Cable, Jo Swinson and not forgetting Norman Lamb that action has at long last been taken.

And that action includes preventing abuses of the beer tie, which oblige publicans to sell particular types of beer. It would enshrine the fundamental principle that ‘a tied licensee should be no worse off than a free-of-tie-licensee’ which will ensure a level playing field is maintained in the pub sector.

I only hope the revolving door is kept out of action, and that the programme of change is swift. Unfortunately it has come too late for Jane and Bernie, departing lessees at the Retreat; but it will save many other pubs – and therefore jobs – from an unnecessary end at the behest of pubcos’ debts.

Cheers Vince! Just what Lib Dem action in Government should look like.

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