Pubs help plan must go further

Dearne MP and former pubs minister John Healey has welcomed Government plans to support pubs – but called on ministers to go further.

In the Queen’s Speech last week the Government announced it would bring in a law to give tied pub tenants new rights under a statutory code of practice.

The code will be enforced by an independent adjudicator who will also arbitrate disputes between tenants and pub companies, investigate breaches and impose sanctions – including fines – if companies fail to comply.

Mr Healey called for these changes as part of a wide-ranging 12-point plan for pubs drawn up in 2010 when he was pubs minister.

The MP said: “Done right, these changes will really help tied tenants.

“Publicans and pub lovers will raise a glass, because the proposals are long overdue and it’s a sign the Government are finally listening to them, instead of the big pub companies.

“But this is a win, not a knock out. It falls short of the full plan I set out as pubs minister in early 2010, so the case and campaign for the full set of changes will continue.”

Mr Healey has called for tied pubs to be allowed guest beers and a free-of-tie option, so they can buy products on the open market, but these proposals did not appear in last week’s announcement.

The MP has previously warned the industry is too skewed towards the big pub companies and away from pub goers, tenants and lessees.

He said many tied tenants get such a bad deal it is almost impossible for them to make a living. A survey by CAMRA found more than half earned less than the minimum wage equivalent salary of £10,000 a year.

Tied tenants usually have to buy beer from their owning company and pay a higher price for it. Rents have also been too high, but the new code will mean fairer rent assessments.

The Government’s consultation on pub industry reform closed nearly a year ago, on 14 June 2013.

Recently Mr Healey has been pressing the Business Secretary to come forward with a response to help pubs. Until last week, the Government said they wanted regulation to remain voluntary.

Mr Healey also carried out a survey of pub landlords in the Dearne, ahead of meetings with pub companies where he is fighting for a better deal for tenants.

The brewing and pubs industry supports 971 jobs in the Wentworth and Dearne constituency and adds £18m to the local economy.