Government inquiry on the Pubs Code and PCA announced

The Government is to undertake an inquiry into the operation of the Pubs Code and the performance of the Pubs Code Adjudicator (“PCA”), with the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee holding a one-off evidence session on 26 June 2018 with the PCA, Paul Newby, and his deputy, Fiona Dickie.

The Committee will look at whether the existing statutory framework is working as it was intended to and whether disputes between tied tenants and pub owning companies are being resolved satisfactorily. It is inviting evidence from the pub owning companies that come under the Code and representative bodies of tied tenants on the following questions:

  • Is the Pubs Code providing clarity and fairness in the relationship between pub owning companies and tied tenants?
  • If not, what changes are required?
  • How effectively has the office of the Pubs Code Adjudicator ensured compliance with the Code and arbitrated in cases of dispute?

The deadline for submissions is Friday 8 June 2018. You can send a written submission to the inquiry on Update on the Pubs Code Adjudicator here.

Rachel Reeves MP, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee is quoted on the website as saying:

“Two years on from the establishment of the Pubs Code Adjudicator, pubs are still closing on a weekly basis. We want to check whether the legislation Parliament introduced is working as it intended. When there is an imbalance in the relationship between a large company and small suppliers or tenants, it is essential that the regulator has the powers and commitment to prevent any abuse.   We also want to check that both sides have confidence that disputes are going to be resolved quickly and that tied tenants have a genuine opportunity to make a good living from running pubs, which are a vital part of many communities up and down the country.”

Update: The ongoing problems facing the PCA show no signs of going away. In the current edition of Pub & Bar magazine, David Clifton addressed the question “Has anything more happened with the Pubs Code since you last wrote about it?”, responding as follows:

“At the end of February, EI Group withdrew its High Court appeal against the PCA’s decision that a contract it offered to one of its tenants did not comply with the Pubs Code. The reason given was that further rulings from the PCA had given it “helpful clarity”. This was followed by an advice published by the PCA on 2 March confirming, amongst other things, that an MRO proposal does not have to be in the form of a new tenancy but it must be consistent with the core principles of the Pubs Code and its terms do not have to be the same as the tied tenancy but they do have to be reasonable.”

However, in a business news article headed Bar brawl brewing as pub giants threaten regulator with judicial review, the Telegraph has reported on 29 May 2018 that EI Group and Greene King have written to the Pubs Code Adjudicator claiming that it has gone beyond its legal powers “threatening a legal showdown with the industry regulator over an overhaul of the centuries-old beer tie”.