Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Osborne's U-turn on pub companies?

The Business Secretary, Vince Cable, raised the hopes of pub tenants earlier this year when he expressed a determination to reform the pub industry. No less than four select committees had found that pub tenants were badly treated as a matter of routine by pubcos who were - I won't mince words - ripping them off good style, as I have reported several times previously. As self regulation was deemed to have failed tenants, Cable told the Commons that a statutory code was required, and this announcement was welcomed on all sides of the House.

The Chancellor, George Osborne, has decided to intervene in the issue: as he is wary of introducing what he sees as unnecessary burdens on business, he has delayed the introduction of the statutory code and independent adjudicator because he doesn't want to impose more red tape on the industry.

The big pubcos such as Enterprise and Punch Taverns have organised an expensive and, it seems, effective lobby of the chancellor and it looks as though it may have paid off. The code was intended to cover rents and the prices publicans pay for beer, and the adjudicator's job would be to investigate disputes between pub companies and tenants with the power to impose fines if necessary.

To refuse to impose "red tape" in a situation where exploitation is acknowledged and, indeed, obvious to observers is putting dogma before livelihoods and communities. So who said ideological intransigence in the face of reality was a preserve of the Left?

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