I have been contacted by constituents about Heineken's proposed takeover of Punch Taverns and the related ‘Save Our Pubs’ campaign.
I agree that this is an important issue. Pubs play a significant role in communities across Britain in villages, towns and cities.
Heineken states that its proposed takeover "is a huge vote of confidence in the Great British Pub", and it has sought to reassure people that it will enable its pubs to sell a number of non-Heineken beers. However, I know that a number of organisations have expressed concern at the proposed takeover. The Campaign for Real Ale, for example, has said that it is "seriously concerned" at the proposal, and that "any attempt to monopolise the industry" would "go against the spirit of the great British pub."
I understand that the proposed takeover could face scrutiny from the Competition and Markets Authority, and that a number of organisations have called for the CMA to investigate.
On a wider note, I believe it is important that pub tenants are given a fair deal and that there is a level playing field between tenants and pub companies. I note that the Pubs Code, which aims to do just that, came into force in July 2016. The Pubs Code includes a "Market Rent Only option", which enables tenants to buy beer on the open market rather than from their landlords.
However, it is disappointing that the Conservative Government did not consider potential conflicts of interest before appointing its chosen candidate to the role of Pubs Code Adjudicator. I know that a number of organisations have expressed concerns that the appointed candidate, Paul Newby, has worked on a number of projects with several major pub companies in the past, and that the partnership he worked for is likely to continue to work closely with these companies in future. I believe that the Conservative Government should replace the current Pubs Adjudicator with someone who has the confidence of pub tenants.