A NEW watchdog could be formed to regulate Burton’s pub companies after the industry was accused of failing to ‘get its house in order’.
Business Secretary Vince Cable has said the time is right to introduce a statutory code of conduct to govern chains with more than 500 pubs, including Burton-based Punch Taverns.
His announcement came 24 hours before MPs were due to debate the issue in the House of Commons today.
Nik Antona, of the Burton and South Derbyshire branch of the Campaign for Real Ale, said the Government’s consultation on the introduction of a statutory code was a ‘key step’ in the fight for a ‘fair deal for publicans’.
Meanwhile the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), which represents pub companies, said it was ‘disappointed’ by Dr Cable’s announcement.
Such companies are accused of treating publicans unfairly and ‘profiteering’ at landlords’ expense. The Government will now consider establishing an independent body, with the power to impose fines, to resolve disputes between chain companies and their landlords.
Mr Antona said: “The pub industry’s current system of self-regulation has failed. Pub companies have had the opportunity to do something but they have not got their houses in order.
“They have increased rents and costs so their tenants are being hit from both sides. There are many publicans not earning the minimum wage because of this. They are profiteering by trying to get as much revenue from each pub as possible and laughing in the face of tenants who want to run good, family, community-focused pubs.”
But BBPA chairman Jonathan Neame said: “It is disappointing that self-regulation has not been given a proper chance to work.
“In the consultation, we will be urging the Government to ensure that any statutory process is light-touch and cost-effective to protect consumers from bearing the brunt of unreasonable additional costs.”
The BBPA added that statutory regulation would lead to ‘unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy’.
Burton MP Andrew Griffiths, chairman of the parliamentary beer group, added: “I have got concerns about the unintended consequences of a statutory code.
“My number one priority is to protect jobs and employment in Burton.”