BOSSES at a Burton-based pub giant have called for face-to-face talks with a Government minister after he revealed that he thought the firm had ‘gone bust’ in a conversation with the town’s MP.
Stephen Billingham, executive chairman of Punch Taverns, based in Centrum 100, has written to Vince Cable to arrange an emergency meeting to ‘clear up any misunderstandings’ that he may have following his embarrassing gaffe to Andrew Griffiths.
Mr Griffiths revealed to the Mail that he was ‘stunned’ to hear the words come out of the Business Secretary’s mouth and has called for him to ‘get up to speed quick’ or remove himself from the role he has in the decision making process on the future of tenanted pub companies.
Mr Griffiths said: “I am stunned that the man making the decision over the future of firm’s like Punch Taverns had no idea whether or not one of the pub companies he could be influencing with decisions he makes were still in business or not.
“He clearly has no understanding of the issues that the industry face and I now have no confidence in his ability to make such a decision.
“For the hundreds of people in Burton who are employed by Punch and the thousands countrywide, it will be alarming to hear that the Business Secretary does not even know that their company is still trading.
“He either needs to get up to speed quick on the facts of the situation facing pub companies or he needs to remove himself from any decision making and let someone who knows what they are talking about make the decision for him.”
The Liberal Democrat grandee will play a pivotal role in government plans for a statutory code to regulate the pub company and tenant relationship.
A spokesman for Punch Taverns said: “Executive Chairman Stephen Billingham has written to Dr Cable requesting a face to face meeting to clear up any misunderstandings that he may have on our current trading position.”
A spokesman for the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, said: “There was a misunderstanding during a private conversation.”
The conversation took place during the Campaign for Real Ale’s annual parliamentary recption in London.
Dr Cable was at the event to address attendees.