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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Compromised pub code adjudicator to keep job

They say justice is blind.
Deaf too, in this case.
wrote in June about the genuine questions over the suitability of Paul Newby for the post of pubs code adjudicator (PCA): "It is not hard to see why Newby lacks credibility among the people who would have to rely on him to adjudicate on disputes with their landlords, given that the latter are major customers of the company in which he has a big shareholding and which owes him a lot of money."

Iain Wright MP, chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) committee, has just sharply criticised the government for its refusal to reopen the appointment of the post, having expressed the committee's concerns about Newby's suitability to the Secretary of State for BEIS Greg Clark in July.

Clark belatedly replied to the BEIS committee this month, four months later: "The appointment process was run in accordance with the code of practice for ministerial appointments to public bodies. As part of the appointment process, the panel considered whether Paul Newby has conflicts of interest that might call into question his ability to do the job and concluded he did not." So that's all right then. Such a bland and uninformative reply could have been cobbled together in five minutes, so why did it take four months? My guest it's because Clark hoped the issue would have faded away by now.

If you want to judge this dispute for yourself, the facts of Newby's past active involvement and current financial stake in pubcos are in my previous post. Iain Wright emphasised that they are not doubting Paul Newby's personal integrity or suitable experience; rather they are saying that it's not enough to be be squeaky clean - it's essential to be perceived as such. Licensees approaching Newby for an impartial adjudication will not be reassured by Clark's curt dismissal of any valid concerns.

In my previous post, I asked whether this all might be a gigantic cock-up. I now think the answer is 'no' and am inclined to believe that pubcos were persuaded to go along with the creation of this post on the basis that the PCA would be a sympathetic appointee.

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