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Save pubs petition delivered to Cable

Added: Thursday, May 15th 2014

CAMRA petition

CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, has mounted renewed pressure on the Government to act to save Britain’s struggling pubs, with a petition delivered to Business Secretary Vince Cable calling for vital large pub company (pubco) reform.

The petition gained more than 30,000 signatures in just five days and surpassed the 42,000 mark ahead of it being delivered to Vince Cable on 14 May. As well as the delivery of the petition, around 100 campaigners, pub-goers and licensees gathered outside Parliament to rally behind Vince Cable’s pledge to end the Great British Pub Scandal.  

CAMRA says it is essential that Vince Cable sticks to his guns and makes an announcement in the next few weeks, to allow action before the upcoming General Election.

“It is absolutely vital that the Government disarms the ticking time bomb threatening the nation’s pubs. CAMRA is demanding the introduction of a Pubs Watchdog to rule on disputes between licensees and pubcos, plus a guest beer right and a market rent only option for tied licensees. These measures are essential in order to create a level playing field for licensees, ensuring those tied to the large pubcos are no worse off than those that are free of tie,” said Colin Valentine, CAMRA’s National Chairman.

It is now well over 12 months since the Government launched its consultation and despite several assurances of action, including a recent letter to CAMRA from Vince Cable stating that “We intend very soon to publish the Government response to our pubs consultation and to announce the next steps”, the Government has so far failed to make an announcement.

Currently tied licensees must purchase their beer and other products from the pub company at an inflated rate, which is often at least 50% more expensive than the market rate. As a result 57% of tied licensees earn less than £10k a year.

“The reforms CAMRA are seeking will enable publicans tied to the large pub companies to make a decent living and invest in their business, protecting thousands of valued pubs and creating a thriving industry. The current model is weighted far too heavily in the favour of the pub company at the expense of the licensee and it is essential the Government acts now to redress the balance, before thousands more people lose their livelihood.”Colin Valentine added.

Comment by Roger Protz: I applaud the petition delivered to Vince Cable but I fear that nothing will happen this side of a general election. Industry insiders tell me that the government is running scared of rushing through proposals that could end with another half-baked solution as happened with the Beer Orders in the early 1990s.

The Beer Orders followed a Monopolies Commission investigation of the national brewers in 1989 that concluded the "Big Six" brewers acted as a cartel, fixing prices, massively over-charging for lager, and keeping smaller breweres' beers out of their tied pubs. As a result, the government ordered the Big Six brewers to open their pubs to smaller brewers' beers. But the giant brewers chose instead to walk away from the industry and sold their pubs to companies that had no obligation to offer choice as they were not brewers.

The end result is that three giant national pubcos today own more pubs than the old Big Six and treat their landlords in a scandalous way. CAMRA's proposals are correct -- but I doubt we will see any action before the 2015 election. And a change of government could further delay any proposals to curb the power of the pubcos.