16:04 Friday 04 January 2013

Calls for new laws to regulate pub chains


THE man hoping to become Burton's next MP has called for tough new laws to regulate pub companies.

Punch Taverns new HQLabour's Jon Wheale said it was vital the Government introduced a statutory code of conduct to control pub chains, such as Burton-based Punch Taverns and Spirit.

Mr Wheale said: "It's not enough just to talk about the beer and pub industry. What's needed is real action to protect jobs and the future of the industry."

Parliament last year voted for a review of the existing system of self-regulation, but critics say the Government has not acted on this.

A similar debate will be held in the House of Commons next week during which Labour will urge the Government to bring in new laws this year.

Mr Wheale said: "I am supporting MPs who are voting in Parliament for the motion which demands the Government take action and put in place a statutory code by the end of 2013 at the latest."

Critics say pub chains treat landlords unfairly and use aggressive business practices. The Labour Party's motion to be debated next week calls for an independent body to resolve disputes between pub companies and landlords.

It also calls for new rights for publicans to opt out of so-called 'beer ties' with exclusive drinks suppliers.

Mr Wheale claimed lack of action to control pub chains had forced many landlords out of business.

"The number of pub closures a week has risen to 18 and more than 200 have been converted into convenience stores in the last two years alone. Evidence of this can be seen across Burton," he said.

But Burton's current Conservative MP Andrew Griffiths, chairman of the parliamentary beer group, accused Labour of hypocrisy. He claimed the smoking ban and beer duty escalator introduced by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's administrations had 'crippled' pubs.

"Labour's pubs minister, Toby Perkins, has refused to commit to a statutory code in the next Labour manifesto," Mr Griffiths said. "Clearly Labour is playing politics with our pubs.

"It is still too early to decide whether the self-regulatory system is working or not."

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