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Pub companies ‘drinking in the last chance saloon’

Friday 13th January 2012 (Andrew Griffiths)
Pub companies ‘drinking in the last chance saloon’

NEW laws to control pub chains ‘are not the answer to the industry’s problems,’ Burton’s MP has told the House of Commons.

Andrew Griffiths hit back at calls for fresh rules to cut the power of pub companies and boost the rights of landlords.

Critics claim firms such as Burton-based Punch Taverns, Spirit and Marston’s treat landlords unfairly by forcing them to buy alcohol at sky-high prices from exclusive suppliers.

The practice, known as the ‘beer tie’, was slammed in a recent report by the Commons backbench business committee.

The debate heard some landlords earned as little as £10,000 a year because of allegedly unfair treatment by pub companies, and many pubs had closed down as a result.

Mr Griffiths, chairman of the parliamentary beer group, defended the industry but admitted pub companies were ‘drinking at the last-chance saloon’.

“We all want to see a healthy and vibrant industry,” he said.

“I don’t defend some of the actions we have seen and which have been uncovered.” He claimed new regulation would further damage pub companies and opposed calls for new laws.

The business committee, backed by the Campaign for Real Ale, says the pub companies have failed to keep their houses in order and now the Government needs to step in.

Mr Griffiths said: “We don’t have all the answers in Parliament. It is far better to allow the industry one last chance to get its act together.

“The ‘beer tie’ is one issue affecting pubs — but we also have to look at the power of the supermarkets, with their below-cost selling, and the red tape and regulations which are loaded on pubs.”

Pub companies currently operate a system of self-regulation through their code of conduct.

Critics say this code of conduct should become law, meaning badly treated landlords could take pub companies to court for unfair treatment.

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