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Fears grow that the government has abandoned small pubs

Fears are growing that the Conservative-led Government have abandoned their responsibility to protect small pubs, and the consequence will be that a few large pub companies will come to dominate the market and ride rough-shod over publicans and small pubs.

Shadow Pub’s Minister, Toby Perkins MP, has written to Jo Swinson, the new Minister in the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills asking her to demonstrate leadership, take the Government in a different direction from her predecessors, and work with him to develop a consistent policy on the beer tie which supports local pubs so the pub trade can be sure of its future.  You can read the letter here.

The beer tie is the practice whereby large pub companies (PubCos) contractually oblige a licensee to purchase beers, wines and spirits through the PubCo rather than on the open market. This theoretically resulted in tenants paying a below market rent for the premises but making up the difference through increased unit prices (known in the industry as wet rent). Many of the pub companies bought huge numbers of pubs when the breweries were forced to divest themselves of their pubs (due to the Beer Orders Act 1989 which restricted the number of pubs owned by brewers with the intention of opening up the market).  Pub companies over estimated the value of their premises and are now propping up their business model by imposing unfair restrictions on tenants and increasing the level of rents and alcohol on their tenants, often to the point where tenants have been bankrupted.

The government’s disregard for Pubs

During British Pub Week 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “I am a big supporter of British pubs, and I want us to be a pub-friendly Government”.  Unfortunately these warm words have not been backed up by real action.

A broad coalition of organisations as diverse as CAMRA, the Federation of Small Businesses, the BIS Select Committee, UNITE the Union, the Independent Pub Confederation, Fair Pint, the GMB Union, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, the Guild of Master Victuallers, the Society of Independent Brewers, the Forum of Private Business and the All Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group – have all called for a review of the current self-regulation system which is no longer viable.

On 12 January MPs voted unanimously to conduct a review of the new self regulatory regime in Autumn 2012 and confirmed the view of the house that only a statutory code would resolve the contractual problems in the industry.

In answer to a Parliamentary Question tabled by Mr Perkins soon after the vote, the then Pub’s Minister, Norman Lamb, confirmed that he would be ignoring the vote which called for an independent review of self regulation writing that: “It would not be appropriate, at this stage, to commission an independent review.” This was clearly disingenuous given that he must have known that the motion called for a review in autumn not in March as he suggested.

The pub industry had hoped that the Government reshuffle and the appointment of several new ministers to BIS might change the Government’s approach.  However, on the list of each minister’s responsibilities on the BIS website, pubs are not included in any of their portfolios.

As successor to Norman Lamb in most other areas, the industry and MPs are assuming that Jo Swinson has taken responsibility for pubs.  However, when the Publican’s Morning Advertiser asked her for a meeting to discussion the situation she refused to meet with them, claiming all the government’s commitments made “have now been achieved”.  This prompted an angry reaction from the Chair of the BIS Select Committee and the All Party Save The Pub Group (

The Federation of Licensed Victuallers Associations (FLVA) has now also written to the Swinson to express their “disappointment” at her attitude (

Toby Perkins said:

“I want to see Britain’s community pubs thriving, it is clear that there is a widespread consensus amongst those in the pub trade that there should be review of a self regulatory regime that is not fit for purpose.  Parliament also unanimously voted for this to begin in the near future.  Unfortunately, the Tory-led government is completely out of touch with the concerns of pubs and has washed its hands of any responsibility to support them.

“I hope the new Minister will perform another u-turn, open her ears to the concerns of pubs and work with us to develop a regulatory system that does right by pubs and their millions of patrons.”


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I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

Contact Toby

Tel: 01246 386286
Post: 113 Saltergate, Chesterfield, S40 1NF


I hold regular surgeries for my constituents.
Please call 01246 386286 or email to make a booking.

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