Business development · 27 May 2016

Anna Soubry asked to apologise for Pubs Code fiasco

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The Pubs Code should have been in place by 26 May 2016

The UK’s first small business minister, Anna Soubry, has been called upon by the country’s community of small business owners to apologise for failing to implement the Pubs Code on time, and for electing an inappropriate Pubs Code Adjudicator (PCA), who is not seen as independent.

According to rules set out in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015, the Pubs Code must have been in place by 26 May this year, but apparent drafting errors in the legislation has caused the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) to miss the deadline, putting it in breach of primary legislation. Newly appointed PCA, Paul Newby, and his staff have been left with nothing to do as a result.

The British Pub Confederation and the Forum of Private Business (FPB) have dubbed the £1.6m cost of the PCA’s office – established to resolve disputes between licensees and pub operating companies – a waste of money.

In a statement, managing director at the FPB Ian Cass said: “Surely Anna Soubry and BIS owe the UK’s publicans, many of whom are FPB members, an apology, having failed to implement the Pubs Code properly having appointed an adjudicator who isn’t independent.”

Newby’s appointment has been derided by pub landlords and tenant groups, including ten of the Confederation’s member-tenant bodies.

Having previously worked on behalf of said tenant groups, Newby’s professional ties with the pub companies he is expected to regulate are seen as too strong, whilst he is claimed still to be linked financially via his former company Fleurets.

Cass went on to say: “We now have an adjudicator in place who most pub owners don’t trust and their representative bodies won’t talk to. He is being paid £130,000 a year to adjudicate on a Pubs Code that has been delayed and isn’t in place yet, a situation that can only be seen as a shocking waste of public money.”

Following Newby’s appointment in March this year, Soubry described Newby as having a wealth of experience in arbitration and someone that would be sensitive the challenges faced by the pub industry.

“The Pubs Code will ensure the 12,000 tied tenants of the six largest pub-owning companies can secure a fair deal and a better livelihood,” she added.

The FPB will continue to lobby BIS in the coming weeks to resolve these issues and ensure the implementation of the Pubs Code in time of the long-awaited appointment of the small business commissioner.

The Lost Pub Project recently found that four pubs currently close every day in England – the highest rate of closure since 1904.

Read on about the landlord who barred 800 people from his pub after their campaign made it more difficult for him to sell it.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.

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