MP Julian Huppert is backing a move to change the law to give publicans renting from the giant pub chains a fairer deal.
He wants a new clause written into the Small Business Bill which would stop large pub companies charging hugely inflated prices and excessive rents to their tenants.
The clause, promoted by the campaign group, Fair Deal for Your Local, would mean publicans tied by companies which own more than 500 pubs across the country could opt for a rental only deal. This would allow them to buy beer on the open market at prices up to 70 per cent below what pub companies force them to pay.
“This is such an important issue,” said Julian. “Our pubs are failing and closing down because publicans are being held to ransom by the big pubcos. They are charged excessive rents and high beer prices which leaves some effectively being paid less than the minimum wage.
“Changing the law gives our local pubs a fighting chance. It stops large companies taking advantage and puts the tied licensee on a fairer playing field with the free of tied licensee.
“In Cambridge, we have lost so many pubs in the last 10 years. These are not just vitally important businesses employing people but they are integral parts of our community and once they are lost they are gone forever.
“I am supporting the Fair Deal for Your Local amendment to this Bill because I feel so strongly about this issue.”
Julian’s fight to save the country’s pubs saw him present his Local Services (Planning) Bill to Parliament. It would give planning authorities the power to prevent the demolition or change of use of a pub or local independent shop without planning permission.
He was named as the Cambridge and District CAMRA Real Ale Champion 2014, and also named as a Parliamentary Beer Champion for his work on this issue and other issues affecting publicans and pub goers.
When the Lib Dems ran Cambridge City Council they established a pub protection policy making it more difficult for pubs to be torn down to develop sites for housing or for the pub to be changed into another business.
The new clause to the Small Business Bill shows that the market rent only option is a simple, cheap to administer and market based solution that would simply give licensees the choice as to whether to pay a fair rent only or stick with a tied agreement. This choice would force the large pub companies to ensure that their tied agreements – where tenants pay marked up prices for beer and other products and services - are competitive, fair and attractive to tenants.
It would only apply to the large pub companies and not the small family-run breweries.
The Fair Deal for Your Local campaign is backed by 10 organisations, including CAMRA, the Federation of Small Businesses, the Forum for Private Business, trade unions and licensees organisations.
Tim Page, CAMRA Chief Executive said: “CAMRA is very pleased that Julian has added his name to an amendment, which calls for an important change to improve the relationship between pub-owning companies and their tenants.
“Allowing pub tenants to choose the best deal for them will put huge commercial pressure on the large pub companies to cut their beer prices to competitive levels. Such a move would benefit over 10,000 pubs, help pub tenants make a living, help keep pubs open and help keep the cost of a pint to consumers affordable.”
Julian will vote on the amendment on Tuesday, November 18.