On Tuesday last week [18th Nov] I voted to protect local publicans from the predatory practices of large pub owning companies (known as pubcos) by backing a new cross-party clause to the Small Business Bill.
Following a report into the industry by the cross-party BIS Select Committee in 2010, my party has campaigned alongside a broad coalition of groups in the industry – including the Federation of Small Businesses, the Forum of Private Business, CAMRA, FairPint and the GMB and UNITE trade unions – to call for greater protection for local pubs and put a stop to unfair treatment and restrictive practices by pubcos.
The government’s provisions to regulate pubcos in the Small Business Bill, debated in Parliament this week, fell some way short of Labour’s plans and campaigners’ demands. Therefore, along with my colleagues, I supported a cross-party clause to strengthen the Bill. The government opposed this change but were defeated by 284 votes to 269.
This change to the law was so important because 27 pubs close every week. 57% of landlords who are tied to a large pubco earn less than £10,000 a year. These are scandals which must be addressed, and so I was proud to support the new clause which gives licensees the option of going free of tie – so that they can buy their beers on the open market – whenever they negotiate a new contract.
I firmly believe that this is the best way to ensure that large pub companies offer fair terms to the licensees and to finally address the scandal of so many valued community pubs shutting.
We have led calls for a proper statutory code with teeth on pub companies, giving tenants the protection they need and putting an end to the unfair treatment they’ve received from large pub companies. Our plans have won support from a broad coalition of campaigners and even the cross-party Business Select Committee. There is a very simple reason for this – we are right.
Yet over the past three years, Ministers have been dragged kicking and screaming every step of the way on this issue, and now they have been dealt a resounding and humiliating defeat in the House of Commons. This vote marked the first time since 2010 that this Government has lost a whipped vote on primary legislation. It is a big deal. The mood in the House was very clearly that the Government was wrong, and that it was in the pockets of the pubcos. I am delighted that just enough Liberal Democrats and Tories joined us to introduce this important measure to protect our pubs.
Hopefully we will see the results in our thriving pubs here in Tameside. I will certainly be doing my bit to support my local!
This article was originally published in the Tameside Reporter