Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Labour pledges support for statutory pub code

MPs took part in an opposition day debate on a statutory code of conduct for pub companies on 9 January 2013.

The debate was called by the Labour Party which said it would support efforts to get a strong statutory code to protect pub landlords into law, if the government was prepared to be tough enough.

Business Secretary Vince Cable announced the day before that the government would introduce an independent adjudicator in the pub industry to help struggling landlords.

The Business Department says the aim is to tackle unfair practices, such as high rents and the prices publicans have to pay for beer.

Landlords have long-complained of being exploited by "pubcos" - large firms that own thousands of pubs. Tied publicans are obliged to buy beer only from their pubco and cannot buy it on the open market.

Shadow business minister Toby Perkins told the Commons that self-regulation had failed.

He said the new code should include a "free-of-tie" option.

Mr Perkins pledged that Labour would change the law in 2015 if it won the general election if ministers failed to act immediately.

Greg Mulholland, Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West, welcomed plans for a new statutory code of conduct.

He said it would "free up" up the British pub sector and allow small businesses to take the decisions they need to "succeed and make a reasonable living".

But he said the "big challenge" for the government would be how it delivers "this principle that tied tenants not be worse off than free-of-tie (tenants)".

There will be a six-week consultation on the government's proposals in the Spring.

Conservative MP Henry Bellingham suggested the government should scrap the alcohol duty escalator - which increases the tax by 2% above the inflation rate each year - arguing it could save money.

"Because any loss in beer duty revenue will be offset by higher beer sales and increasing revenue from employment taxes," he said.

MPs voted on Labour's motion calling for a statutory code to be put in place by the end of the year, rejected it by 311 votes to 246, a 65-majority.

The government's amendment was approved without a vote.

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