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Shadow Pubs Minister welcomes partial government u-turn on pubco regulation – but warns that independent pubs groups must not be ignored

Less than a month ago the attitude of Jo Swinson, the new BIS Minister, towards the pubs agenda was extremely dismissive.  She refused a meeting request from the Publican’s Morning Advertiser on the grounds that all the government’s commitments made “have now been achieved”, prompting an angry reaction from the Chair of the BIS Select Committee and the All Party Save The Pub Group (http://tinyurl.com/9hw64gy).

She even failed to clarify for MPs and the industry if she was actually responsible for pubs by ignoring a letter from Toby Perkins MP, the Shadow Pubs Minister, which pointed out that pubs policy has not been allocated to any minister on the list of their responsibilities on the BIS website.

Labour has consistently supported the calls of the BIS Select Committee for an independent review of how the relationship between pubcos and licencees can be put on a more formal, statutory footing.  A broad coalition of groups in the pub trade have all supported this call, including:

  • CAMRA
  • the Federation of Small Businesses
  • the BIS Select Committee – which has a majority of coalition members
  • the Liberal Democrat Member for Leeds North West
  • the Conservative Member for Northampton South
  • the All Party Parliamentary Save the Pub Group
  • 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

The government has so far ignored this group of interests and also the will of Parliament, which voted unanimously in favour of this proposal on 12 January.  But at Business, Innovation and Skills questions yesterday morning (8 November) when pressed by four separate Labour MPs on this issue, including Mr Perkins, Swinson announced a partial u-turn.

The minister clearly now feels that all of the government’s commitments have not been met as she announced that: “The Secretary of State has written to the industry asking for evidence on how the self-regulatory approach announced last November is working and we will make our decision after considering the response from the industry.”

Toby cautiously welcomed the partial u-turn, but warned that there would still be much confusion for those in the pub trade.  He said:

‘The entire industry knows that the current self-regulatory system is not working – with the respected Lib Dem chair of the All Party Save the Pub Group announcing just last month that “self regulation has failed”.  Until this morning it seemed as though this out-of-touch government was determined to ignore these voices, so I welcome the fact that they will now at least talk to some in the industry about the self regulation policy.  However, the best thing they could do would be to would be to stop thinking they know better than the hugely diverse coalition of groups who are calling for an independent review on statutory regulation, and do just that.’

Perkins also expressed fears that the government’s new discussions on pubco regulation might ignore several important groups.  He added:

‘The Secretary of State has not told us exactly who he will be writing to, but we know from past experience that this Tory-led government prefers to listen to large pub companies rather that licensees and independent groups when making its policy.  I have tabled a parliamentary question today asking the government to ensure they don’t ignore these important groups when carrying out these discussions.  If it is revealed that they are only consulting with large pub companies this will be yet another kick in the teeth to local pubs and their millions of patrons.’

Toby’s parliamentary question is as follows:

To ask the Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills, further to the announcement in the House on 8 November 2012 by the Member for East Dunbartonshire, that he will be contacting the pubs industry asking for evidence on the success or otherwise of his self-regulatory approach, if the following organisations have been contacted as part of this process:

  • CAMRA
  • Fair Pint
  • 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
  • The All Party Save The Pub Group

 

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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.

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