Government have acted in bad faith over attempt to replace Fair Deal for Your Local clause voted through by MPs

Save The PubParliamentary Save the Pub Group

Representatives of the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign have criticised the Government, who have unveiled their plans to wipe out Clause 42 – the Market Rent Only clause – of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill and replace it with their own clause.

Greg Mulholland, Coordinator of the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign met with BIS civil servants on 18th December and was promised that BIS would then engage in a dialogue and involve the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign as well as sharing any legal or practical concerns they had with the wording of Clause 42 – yet BIS failed to do either.

The campaign have since then been working with a top pub sector legal team, acting on a pro bono basis to assist the campaign – and pubco tenants – by ensuring the legislation is correct and robust – yet the offer to work with BIS has been ignored, despite concerns that as in 2011, the Department are accepting claims presented to them by the pubcos and their lobbying organisation, the British Beer and Pub Association, with some of BIS’s arguments for amending Clause 42 remarkably similar the BBPA’s briefing document sent to peers.

The Fair Deal for Your Local campaign’s legal team have also spotted a flaw in the Government proposed new clause as well as their being errors in the revised process the Government is proposing, meaning that the Government will not be able to pursue their current new clause anyway.

The Fair Deal for Your Local campaign are therefore calling on the Government to withdraw their amendment plans to wipe out Clause 42 – and instead to agree to sit down with the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign and seek to work through any issues. If they do not do that, then pro-pub peers will be called upon to throw out the Government amendment, along with former Marston’s Director, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbots’ amendments at Grand Committee, to force the Government to think again – and seek to get agreement over reasonable drafting changes from the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign – or risk defeat at House of Lords Report Stage also.

There is now also a fear amongst campaigners that lobbying by the pubcos and their trade association, the BBPA, will lead to a repeat of what happened when the Beer Orders were watered down – which was what caused the loophole that led to the creation of the standalone pubcos, by changing plans to impose a limit of a maximum number of pubs on any company and only a limit on brewing companies. Campaigners believe that the pubcos are seeking changes so they have loopholes to exploit to avoid having to be bound by the statutory code or the market rent only options – and fear that BIS are not adequately looking at preventing these.

Greg Mulholland MP, Coordinator of the fair Deal for Your Local campaign and Chair of the Parliamentary Save the Pub Group said:

“The Government have acted in bad faith over this. They said they accepted the will of the House and would work with MPs and the Fair deal for Your Local campaign on making the clause workable, yet without even having the courtesy to tell me, they have tabled an amendment wiping out Clause 42, which was voted through as the democratic will of the House of Commons.

“Having been defeated on this by a majority of MPs, you would have thought they would have had the sense to work with me, the author of Clause 42 and the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign. Instead and inevitably, by presenting a new clause as a fait accompli, we will oppose the Government’s ill advised and poorly executed plans to try to change and water down the Market Rent Only option. I hope that they learn this lesson and now act in good faith and agree to withdraw their amendment and work with us to seek agreement before Lords Report Stage, otherwise we will seek to defeat them again”.     

Simon Clarke of Fair Pint Campaign and a steering group member of the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign said:

“This is an attempt to bulldoze through amendments without the dialogue and consultation promised. In the House of Lords, Baroness Neville-Rolfe, in answer to Lord Snape’s intervention, assured the peers that  ” …we are always discussing these issues and changes with tenants…” yet these proposed changes and the replacement of clause 42 were not discussed with tenant groups and seem contrary to the will of parliament and the promises made to the House of Commons by Government that the new Market Rent Only option clause would not be contested.

“Leaving aside the clear ‘get out of jail free’ cards for the pub owning companies exploiting the tied agreements, there are flaws in the proposed amendments which will prove unworkable in a practical sense and we would recommend their withdrawal, proper consultation and hopefully a sensible set of minor amendments resubmitted that can be supported by tenant groups”.

For more information, contact Mo Saqib (Parliamentary Researcher to Greg Mulholland MP) on saqibm@parliament.uk or 0207 219 3833

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