Pubs face tough new laws after MPs' broadside

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The Independent Online

An influential committee of MPs has urged the Government to introduce statutory legislation to regulate big pub companies, following years of abuse.

In a blistering attack that referred to "bullying and intimidation" of lessees across the industry, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills' (BIS) committee concluded that self-regulation had "failed" to deliver meaningful reform. It urged the Government to table proposals for an "adjudicator armed with a full suite of sanctions" to police the behaviour of pub companies.

A key target is the "beer tie" – where the landlord is forced to buy most of their beer from the company from which the premises are leased – following little progress, with pub companies offering only 16 per cent of new lessees and just 9 per cent of existing lessees a lease free of the tie.

The committee said this and other failings were contributing to pubs closing at an "alarming rate", at a time when a downturn in consumer spending continues to squeeze pubs further.

The group of MPs said they had run out of patience with progress made by the "impotent" British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) – whose members account for nearly two-thirds of Britain's 52,500 pubs – to implement reform and show it was working successfully within a voluntary code of practice.

However, the BBPA hit back, citing the "significant progress" it had made, adding it was "deeply disappointed" by the report. Those BBPA members who are likely to be most worried are the UK's biggest operators of the beer tie for leased and tenanted landlords, Punch and Enterprise Inns.

Adrian Bailey, an MP on the BIS committee, said this was its fourth report in seven years and the industry had for "too long failed to put its own house in order" following a "final ultimatum" 18 months ago.