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Minister: 'pubcos are flouting the code'

Added: Sunday, January 29th 2017

Paul Newby

A government minister has admitted that pub companies are flouting the new Pubs Code during a debate in parliament on 26 January. Margot James, the Minister for Business, Energy and Industry, said “We have heard allegations of ongoing abuse by pub companies. Tenants seeking the Market Rent Only [MRO] option are being undermined by tactics being deployed by the pub companies, which threaten to make the pursuit of MRO unviable – in direct contravention of the code.

“There are clearly instances of flouting the code going on and members are quite right to bring them forward. They are what the code is designed to root out.”

Margot James’s admission came during a 100-minute debate initiated by Greg Mulholland MP, chair of the British Pub Confederation, and backed by MPs Iain Wright and Chris White. They delivered a hammer blow to the position of the Pubs Code Adjudicator Paul Newby (pictured) by successfully calling on the government to re-open the appointments process for the job.

Since Newby was appointed last year, Greg Mulholland has repeatedly queried the PCA’s position due to his previous role as a director of Fleurets, the specialist property valuers. In that position, Paul Newby dealt with such pub companies as Enterprise Inns and Punch Taverns on a regular basis, which Mulholland and publicans’ pressure groups feel constitutes as conflict of interest.

But Margot James supported Newby: “We believe he is the right person to ensure the Pubs Code delivers the statutory objectives and we think he has got off to a good start.”

Greg Mulholland, ending the debate, told the minister: “You have heard today that the position of Paul Newby is untenable. He cannot perform this role and will simply never have the confidence of tenants.

“If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck then it is a duck. Well frankly, he’s a dead duck but he’s worse than that. He is a duck that is in real danger of compromising, skewing and watering down everything the government tried to do in the Pubs Code and what the code stood for.”

The motion to re-open the appointments process was carried.

*Earlier this month, Greg Mulholland was voted out of his role as chairman of the All-Parliamentary Save the Pubs group. He says it was “a coup” and claims that MPs and Peers who had never attended a meeting of the group before turned up to vote against him and replace him with Toby Perkins, a Labour MP and former shadow pubs minister.