I watched with interest yesterday the motion passed in the Commons criticising the Government's lack of action on the Business Select Committee proposals for pub chains. Reasonably well-attended for a Thursday afternoon, although my MP was no-where to be seen despite my email to her, hopefully she is not on another sprog-dropping spree which saw her still claim expenses whilst twice on maternity leave and not in the Commons during the last session of Parliament.
The Commons was for once united in a game of "Pub Bingo" at which a Member would try and mention the name of a pub in his or her constituency, honourable mention must go to the Member for Torfaen who managed to name the Open Hearth in Sebastopol, Pontypool in his speech.
Others defended the family brewers - James Gray the Member for Wadworth's and Andrew Griffiths, the Member for Marston's and Punch. But this debate was not about family brewers, but about the thousands of pubs and their landlords struggling to survive, pubs that are owned by Pub Companies.
If there was one star in the debate it was Greg Mullholland who announced that the Government response to the Business Select Committee was written by the British Beer & Pub Association - it even contained the same typos!
A lot of MPs blamed the beer tie for pub closures, once again choosing to ignore the elephant in the room that is the smoking ban.
Charlotte Leslie MP for Bristol North West, provided an welcome bit of totty to the debate and said,
"The issue of the beer tie is one part of the equation which is leading to so many of our pubs closing".
But failing to mention the elephant in the room again.
Even the tree-hugging Caroline Lucas MP for Sodom and Gomorrah (Brighton) joined in the support for pubs. There truly is cross-party support for this issue.
Of course a debate with like this is also an opportunity for MPs to use their most descriptive pub language -
"The Prime Minister is dodging his round at the bar on this issue" - from Tom Blenkinsop MP.
The debate concluded without a vote, the Ayes having won with no objections heard by the Noes.
Motion passed by Parliament:
That this House believes that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills’ proposals for reform of the pub industry fall short of the undertaking given to the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee in July 2010 and that only a statutory code of practice which includes a free-of-tie option with an open market rent review and an independent adjudicator will resolve the contractual problems between the pub companies and their lessees; and calls on the Government to commission a review of self-regulation of the pub industry in the Autumn of 2012 to be conducted by an independent body approved by the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee
CAMRA did a live blog of the speech which can be viewed here.
CAMRA Press release on the subject below:
Parliament Unanimously Passes Fair Deal for Pubs Motion
Following a lively debate on the floor of the House of Commons, during which the Government was heavily criticised for rejecting proposals by the Business Select Committee, MPs have unanimously passed a motion criticising Government's lack of action on pub companies as falling short of their own commitments and requiring the Government to commission an independent review of self regulation in the pub sector.
Today’s decision by Parliament follows over 5,000 CAMRA members individually contacting their local MPs asking them to support this motion and extensive campaigning by organisations including Federation of Small Businesses, Forum for Private Business, licensee groups and the Parliamentary Save the Pub Group.
Mike Benner, CAMRA Chief Executive said:
‘CAMRA is delighted that MPs from all parties have highlighted the inadequacy of the Government’s attempts to tackle unfair business practices in the pub sector and that the Government are now obliged to commission an independent review into the matter. Following the success of this motion the Government now has a chance to think again and to consult on meaningful proposals to ensure the survival of many thousands of pubs.
‘The large pub companies must be encouraged to provide their lessees with free of tie and guest beer options accompanied by an open market rent review. These steps would effectively self regulate the operation of tie agreements.
‘The large pub companies have been living in the last chance saloon since 2004 during which time many thousands of valued community pubs have been lost forever while pub companies have failed to deliver meaningful self regulation.’