BBPA Chairman Jonathan Neame has told MPs that the pub industry recognises that Clause 42 in the Small Business Bill (MRO) is here to stay, and called on Parliament to work with the industry to maximise business confidence in the new legislation.
Jonathan Neame was speaking at the joint BBPA/All-Party Parliamentary Beer Group reception in Parliament on Wednesday evening. Specifically, he called on MPs and Peers not to tamper with the 500 pub limit currently in the legislation, as it makes its way through the House of Lords.
The full text of Jonathan Neame’s speech follows:
“This is not the evening for long speeches but it would be remiss of me after another momentous year for the industry, not to identify some of the highlights.
“This Government, perhaps more than any other I can remember, has tried to engage with the industry and create the right platform for growth, for investment and job creation. In this regard, we warmly welcome the tide of initiatives this year, with a further duty cut which secured vital jobs mainly in pubs, new investment and the lowest increases in beer prices for hard working pub-goers for well over a decade, extended small business rate relief, a full review of business rates, cuts to NI, changes to packaging waste, support for exporters and promotion of pubs and beer through the GREAT campaign. Can I thank all those who have worked hard to effect these changes, in particular your Chairman Andrew Griffiths MP who has worked tirelessly on all our behalves.
“This year has of course also been dominated by the debate on the Statutory Code. As someone who has witnessed the debate evolve over 10 long years, all I hope that this is the last!
“The BBPA has consistently argued during this time that the tied business model has stood the test of time, was evolving fast and would continue to evolve; that there were many and varied reasons, such as lifestyle changes, that had caused the challenge to licensees AND pub owners in recent years; and that statutory intervention was inappropriate for fear of the unintended consequences. We all remember the Beer Orders you see … and seen the impact of that unfold over 20 years.
“But we recognise that this House has now supported an alternative thesis and has voted for radical change.
“Let me re-assure those here tonight, in case there is any idle speculation on this point, that the BBPA is NOT seeking to overturn the MRO and realise that this will now become Law.
“However, we do have a few pleas:
“1. The Bill, as drafted, is not perfect and we would like to see some, relatively – emphasis on relatively, before I set hares running! – minor amendments, to provide greater certainty for those investing in the sector. I recognise that pub owners are not the most loved beasts in the jungle, but the fact is that they do invest in the region of £200m in to the tenanted pub sector every year is surely to be welcomed and encouraged.
“They are saying that the current drafting is too uncertain for them to continue to do so at the same level. This is not scaremongering, but genuine. Whether you believe this is a hiatus or becomes a long term reduction, I call on everyone to work constructively together to make amendments to give them more confidence to do so, without changing the substance of the MRO.
“2. Please do not tamper with the 500 pub limit, as this will cause huge uncertainty and potential damage to the Family Brewers.
“3. If the duty and other tax cuts have stimulated confidence, then the New Clause 2 has reduced it. Thus we will redouble our call to the Chancellor to give us a hat trick of duty cuts in the next budget and hope for your support!
“4. From all sides of the debate I think there is a recognition that tied pub partnership CAN – and in our opinion DOES – work for mutual benefit of pub owner, licensee and consumer. But the gauntlet has been thrown down to “Prove it!” Our challenge and my hope is that over the next few years, the benefits and successes of this business model -of which there are many, – will become apparent once again.
“5. What the campaigners have achieved is remarkable and unexpected. But, for all the apparent polarisation of this debate, this industry is unique in that the needs of brewer, pub owner, licensee and consumer are aligned and necessitate a close working relationship.
“Whilst there are some that will advocate driving a further wedge between participants, I think the majority will see the benefits of finding a path to reconciliation and so establish modern, professional, transparent business partnership that stimulates existing licensees and attracts the next generation of entrepreneurs to our sector.
“Given the importance of this debate, can I also express the hope that we move to a more constructive dialogue about the issues rather than the personalities, that we aim to defuse this current atmosphere of hostility.
“6. In closing, can I thank all of you here tonight for your commitment, passion and enthusiasm for the industry. However hot the kitchen is on occasions, I can assure you that that is preferable to indifference and apathy towards our sector !
“My New Year wish is that you will continue to support beer and pubs and that, in the heat of the Election battle in 2015, do not forget the enormous contribution this sector makes to Britain’s economy and society.
“Finally, – and, in wishing you all a Merry Christmas, – I would like to present the Chairman’s Award that was announced but not collected in October to Brandon Lewis for his huge commitment, energy and understanding of our sector, during his time as Pubs Minister.
Notes to editors:
The British Beer & Pub Association is the leading body representing Britain’s brewers and pub companies. The Association is more than a century old and was originally founded as the Brewers’ Society in 1904. Our members account for some 90 per cent of beer brewed in Britain today, and own around 20,000 of the nation’s pubs.
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