Ministers must act to deliver a change of approach from the Pubs Code Adjudicator following 12 months of confusion and delay, the Campaign for Real Ale demands, exactly one year on from the introduction of the Pubs Code.
While the Pubs Code was introduced in order to end unfair practices in the sector, progress so far has been disappointing – and requests for key information have been rejected by the Pubs Code Adjudicator.
CAMRA has published a three point plan calling on the Pubs Code Adjudicator to:
- Provide guidance on aspects of the Pubs Code that are currently unclear, such as Market Rent Only lease terms, stocking requirements and dilapidations
- Publish a breakdown of arbitration cases by pub company and issue
- Publish general principles being identified in cases which will help with interpretation of the Pubs Code
In addition, CAMRA is calling on pub-owning companies and tenants to abide by the spirit of the Code and avoid unnecessary delays in the resolution of disputes. It is recognised that both the legislation and the procedures that have been put in place are not perfect, but the organisation believes that the arbitration process could be made better if there was greater cooperation by all parties.
Colin Valentine, CAMRA’s National Chairman says: “A healthy pub sector that delivers for consumers is dependent on ensuring that pub tenants are able to secure a fair deal from their landlords. Too many great pubs have been lost because of sky high rents and inflated wholesale beer prices.The Government demonstrated its understanding of the problem by bringing in the Pubs Code. Now it must act to ensure its will is carried through – before we see another year go by with many more pubs lost to their communities forever.
“We welcomed the introduction of the Pubs Code and have always wanted to give Paul Newby a chance to succeed in his role as Adjudicator. The chaotic circumstances surrounding the introduction of the Pubs Code a year ago meant that the Code’s introduction was always going to be challenging, but we are disappointed that more progress has not been made. The need for an effective Pubs Code has been clearly demonstrated in the first year, with over 150 pub tenants bringing forward arbitration cases, but it is evident that the arbitration process is taking too long and costing too much.
“If the office charged with upholding that new law isn’t able to deliver clarity, speed of action and affordable dispute resolution then the Pubs Code is meaningless. It is vital that Ministers take action now to ensure that the Pubs Code Adjudicator provides detailed guidance, acts transparently and publishes details of the principles being identified in individual cases.”
Data obtained by CAMRA via the Freedom of Information Act shows that in the first 10 months of the Pubs Code’s existence, more than 500 enquires were made to the Adjudicator, with more than 150 arbitration cases registered. But CAMRA’s request for other crucial information, such as the number of arbitration cases per Pub Company and a breakdown of cases by issue, has been refused. An appeal against that ruling is being submitted to Paul Newby.
Colin Valentine, CAMRA’s National Chairman continues: “The Pubs Code Adjudicator is undermining the successful operation of the Pubs Code by keeping secret the number of arbitration cases per pub company. It is vital that this information is made public so that public pressure can be brought to bear on the most complained-about pub companies to better comply with the Code. It is stretching credibility that information that was published through the old self-regulatory regime is now being withheld from the public. The Adjudicator’s refusal to release this data gives the impression that he is more concerned with the interests of pub companies than he is with the interests of tenants and the communities that their pubs serve.”
Toby Perkins MP, Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Pubs Group says: “The All Party Pub Group has met with representatives of the pub owning companies and the tenants to explore their experiences with regard to the Pub Code. We share CAMRA’s concerns that the spirit of the legislation may not be being followed and that the Code is proving less effective than it ought and will be inviting Mr Newby to our next meeting to discuss these concerns.
“Following the meeting, I am today on behalf of the Group issuing a call for evidence about any issues that people or organisations in the industry are experiencing with the code and invite them to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with their experiences so we might be fully informed about the best way to ensure the code delivers the objectives expected of it.”