Breaking the breweries: Pub landlords want rent independently reviewed to ensure it is fair

Dozens of MPs to back an amendment to the Small Business Bill
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The Independent Online

Dozens of prominent Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs are set to rebel against the Government in an attempt to break big breweries' stranglehold on pubs across the country.

They will back an amendment to the Small Business Bill, in a vote on Tuesday, which allows landlords leasing pubs from large companies (those owning more than 500 pubs) to have their rent independently reviewed to ensure it is fair. It would also allow them to buy beer at competitive prices on the open market – saving, according to campaigners, about 60p a pint.

Critics believe both moves would help to break the "beer tie" which they believe is killing the pub trade, resulting in the closure of thousands of pubs across the country.

The Government proposes to introduce a pubs code adjudicator to rule on disputes between landlords and large pub-owning companies, but the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) say this does not go far enough.

"Tied pub licensees across the UK are struggling because of inflated beer prices and unrealistic rent," said Camra's Tom Stainer. "With 31 pubs now being lost every week across the UK, it is clear the current tied model used by the large pub companies is unsustainable. The pubs code adjudicator is a step in the right direction, but it is essential the Bill is amended if it is to have the power to make a difference."

Senior figures including Sir Edward Leigh, Sir Peter Bottomley, Tim Farron and former armed forces minister Sir Nick Harvey are among at least 34 Conservative and Lib Dem MPs who are backing the amendment, which is also being supported by a number of Labour MPs.

But the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) hit back yesterday, warning if the rebellion succeeds, 1,400 pubs would close and 7,000 jobs would be lost. Brigid Simmonds, BBPA's chief executive, said: "This amendment would effectively break the 'beer tie', ending a business model that has wide cross-party support, and has served Britain's unique pub industry well for nearly 400 years. Without 'the tie', many much-loved British breweries, robbed of their existing market through their own pubs, would also have to close."

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