Vital information to help pubs licensees navigate the pub tenancy regulation process has been released, after a challenge by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).
Following initial refusal by the Pubs Code Adjudicator (PCA) to release information on the performance of the Code, CAMRA took it’s request to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which ruled in CAMRA’s favour. This information will help make the arbitration process more transparent for pub tenants and follows a Freedom of Information Request from CAMRA over a year ago.
The Pubs Code was introduced by the government following a decade-long campaign by CAMRA members. It was intended to redress the balance between licensees running pubs and the companies which own the pub and “tie” them into buying beer and other products at a fixed price as part of the rental arrangement.
With the Code now two years old, CAMRA is calling for a full review, in order to address key issues that have arisen since it came into operation.
CAMRA’s National Chairman Jackie Parker said: “We welcome the decision from the ICO, and the release of this information by PCA is an important step in our fight to secure a fair arbitration process for pub tenants, and ultimately save viable pubs from closure.
“Openness and transparency will not only help tenants navigate the MRO process more easily, but will help build confidence in the Code which has been subject to criticism since its launch in 2016.
“Now that the PCA has released the requested information following the decision notice, we hope the PCA recognises the benefits of transparency in the MRO process and exerts pressure on pub companies to waive confidentiality over arbitration awards. This is essential to give tenants visibility of vital principles being established through the arbitration process.
“What is fundamentally needed is for the Government to launch a full review of the Code, in order to address key issues which have arisen since it came into operation.”
In a submission to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee in June, CAMRA highlighted that national pub companies are continuing to exploit gaps in the legislation and operation of the Pubs Code, and were not abiding by its spirit the spirit of the Code.
The submission called for urgent changes to the Pubs Code to allow delivery of the aims of the Code and argued that an immediate review is needed, including a consultation which involves pub tenants and other industry stakeholders.
“It’s clear that the first eighteen months of the operation of the Code was plagued by delays and the PCA was far too slow to respond to emerging issues,” CAMRA said in its submission.
Alongside seeking more detailed information from the PCA – part of which it has now secured thanks to the ICO ruling – CAMRA has also sought evidence about obstructive tactics deployed by pub companies when tenants attempt to break free of the tie by taking advantage of the “market rent only” option the Pubs Code offers.