Pub Companies - Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Contents

2  Implementation of the new Codes of Practice

Previous Committee Reports

15.  In 2004 the Trade and Industry Committee recommended:

At this stage we do not think a legally binding code of practice necessary, but if the industry does not show signs of accepting and complying with an adequate voluntary code then the Government should not hesitate to impose a statutory code on it.[13]

As a result the BBPA updated and expanded its Framework Code of Practice.

16.  The 2009 Business and Enterprise Committee Report recommended:

The BBPA's Framework Code of Practice and the recommendations of the Trade and Industry Committee have not solved the problems of inequality in bargaining power and inadequate means to resolve disputes identified in 2004: we believe that more is now needed.[14]


It may be the industry's problems can be solved by a framework ensuring fairness and transparency in dealings between landlord and lessee. It may be necessary to ensure that inequalities in bargaining power are recognised, even when business contracts are involved. It may be that the beer tie should be prohibited.[15]

17.  In response to the 2009 Report the BBPA decided it would again update its Framework Code of Practice as it did in response to the 2004 Committee Report. The 2010 Business, Innovation and Skills Committee Report which assessed the progress of the new BBPA Framework Code of Practice found:

We do not believe previous BBPA and pub company Codes of Practice have been sufficiently robust. Nor do we believe the pub companies have properly complied with them. This history of evasiveness and the demonstrable consequences for lessees inevitably requires a critical response to the new Framework Code.[16]

That Report was also disappointed in the delay to the Framework Code being published:

We are disappointed that it took until the end of January 2010 to publish the new BBPA Framework Code of Practice. We were given sight of a draft Code ahead of the evidence session in December 2009 and the difference between the draft and the published Codes appears to be minimal. This delay put back publication of our Report as it was only fair to let other groups respond to it.[17]

Our predecessors concluded:

The new Framework Code of Practice appears to be a modest step in the right direction. Of necessity it provides a framework for companies of all sizes. We expect the major pub companies to treat it as an absolute de-minimis requirement and to significantly build on it with their own Codes. Only by doing so will pub companies be able to demonstrate that they are committed to reform. We recommend that our successor committee, at an early opportunity in the next Parliament, assess the extent to which pub companies have built on what is a bare minimum of a Framework Code; and evaluate how effective the new Code has been in improving the relationship between lessees and pub companies. Previous codes have been weaker and not fully observed by the pub companies. We will need to see compelling and continuing evidence by June 2011 that the new codes are being observed and enforced if our successor committee is not to recommend statutory intervention.[18]

Deadlines and delays

18.  The Framework Code of Practice is the industry's 'template' for individual pub companies' codes of practice. The Framework Code was drawn up by the BBPA but individual company codes would be accredited by the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII) which is the professional body for the licensed retail sector. In evidence to the 2010 inquiry the BBPA told us that by June 2010 they hoped most pub company codes of practice would be accredited.[19] Our predecessor Committee believed that the BBPA should be held to its deadline and concluded that:

The Codes of Practice are moving in the right direction, but they are not yet in place. We will hold the BBPA to its timetable for implementation for the larger pub companies. Any delay beyond June 2010 which is not accompanied with a justifiable reason, will not be acceptable. Furthermore, after the assurances it has given to the Committee, the BBPA not individual pub companies will be held responsible if delays and slippages occur.[20]

It also recommended that the industry:

Produces a project plan for change with key stages at which it can be marked against achievement. This would make it easier for the industry to see how it is progressing and for our Committee, our successor Committee and the Government to be confident that real change is happening. If slippage in the project plan occurs the Committee and Government must be provided with explanations and industry plans for action to get the timetable back on course. [21]

19.  In July 2010, the month after the deadline, the BBPA wrote to us with details of how the accreditation had progressed:

All major pub companies have now either had their Codes of Practice accredited by BIIBAS (Punch and Enterprise), or are actively engaged in the process of accreditation which is expected before the end of July (Admiral, Mitchells and Butlers, SNPC, Greene King and Marstons). These companies represent more than 20,000, pubs or 90% of the leased and tenanted pub sector.[22]

20.  In October 2010, the BBPA provided an updated submission which stated that:

The majority of BBPA members who operate leased or tenanted pubs have now either had their Codes of Practice accredited by BIIBAS or are in the final stages of this process. These companies represent over 23,000 pubs or around 98.6% of BBPA members with leased and tenanted pubs.[23]

That submission also stated that the BBPA "took note of the Select Committee's comments and decided that, in the interests of minimising [cost] burdens [on small businesses], very small companies should have more time to complete the accreditation process". The BBPA concluded that "We expect such companies, representing 324 pubs, to complete and implement their codes by the end of the year".[24]

21.  The following table, provided by the BII, sets out the accreditation timing for each pub company and highlighted the number of companies which did not meet the June 2010 deadline:

Pub Operating Company Date of Accreditation
Admiral Taverns10.11.10
Charles Wells30.06.10
Daniel Thwaites08.09.10
Elgood and Son26.01.11
Frederic Robinsons 17.01.11
Greene King13.06.10
Hall and Woodhouse 25.10.10
Hook Norton18.05.11
JW Lees19.08.10
Mitchells and Butlers 14.12.10
Mitchells of Lancaster 03.05.11
SA Brains20.08.10
Scottish and Newcastle 22.07.10
Shepherd Neame06.08.10
St Austell07.01.11
Timothy Taylor28.10.10

BII Ev 50

22.  When we asked the BII why some of the codes had still to be accredited, Mr Robertson, Chief Executive of the BII, told us:

You would probably need to ask colleagues in the pub companies that question. My gentle observation would be that this is a significant departure in practice for some of the companies. Some of the small companies have found it particularly difficult to respond to it. There are one or two smaller ones that have still not got there.[25]

23.  Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the BBPA, reiterated that by July 2010, 10 companies, representing 90% of the pubs in the leased and tenanted sector had been accredited and that "all the big companies had their accreditation in before June 2010; not all were accredited by that time". She argued that smaller companies "would want to wait and see how the larger companies fared and learn from them" but asserted that "all companies have now put forward for accreditation to BII" although "there are five that still have not been finalised through the process".[26]

24.  While we agree with our predecessor Committee that accreditation had the potential to be more onerous for smaller companies, we note that Batemans, a small brewer pub company, was in fact the first company to have its codes accredited.[27]

25.  When questioned on the cause of the accreditation delays, Brigid Simmons argued that that there had been a queue of companies waiting to be accredited.[28] In a follow-up note to the Committee the BBPA also offered the following two reasons:

1.  The setting up and iterative processes involved in the accreditation process were more difficult than originally envisaged, leading to delay for some of those companies who were early into the process.

2.  BII took their own legal advice about the legal status of Codes and this delayed the accreditation of some already submitted Codes.[29]

26.  Marston's was one of the larger companies which did not make the deadline. Alastair Darby, Managing director, Marston's Pub Company, explained his experience of the accreditation process:

We went for our first accreditation hearing during June. There was a queue of companies waiting to be accredited or for their codes to be reviewed. We had a long four-hour meeting with the BII, which resulted in some suggested amendments and changes to our code to improve clarification. We submitted those after that meeting, towards the end of June, and got official accreditation in July. The reason for the delay was purely the process, and making sure that the codes were as clear as they possibly could be in the eyes of BIIBAS, the accreditation panel.[30]

27.  The fact that there were delays was unfortunate, but not entirely unexpected, given the nature of the process. However, the BBPA did not give the impression that it was active in trying to speed up the process. Contrary to the 2010 recommendation, the BBPA did not inform the Committee at the time that it had made changes to its timetable. Nor did it alert the Committee, in advance, to delays in its project plan and supply reasons for it. The BBPA should have been more upfront with the fact there had been slippages and written earlier to explain what they were, what had gone wrong and what the plan of action was to get matters back on track.

28.  The BBPA's failure to supply the Committee with information requested by our predecessor Committee on slippages yet again demonstrates the industry's failure to be transparent and to engage in the process. Just simply glossing over major slippages in their own target without providing any information smacks of complacency and demonstrates an inability to deliver meaningful reform.

13   HC (2004-05) 128-I, para 204 Back

14   HC (2008-09) 26-I, para 156 Back

15   HC (2008-09) 26-I, para 194 Back

16   HC (2009-10) 138, para 26 Back

17   HC (2009-10) 138, para 32 Back

18   HC (2009-10) 138, para 70 Back

19   HC (2009-10) 138, para 31 Back

20   HC (2009-10) 138, para 101 Back

21   HC (2009-10) 138, paras 101 and 102 Back

22   Ev 91 Back

23   Written evidence submitted by BBPA published October 2010 on the Committee's website Back

24   Written evidence submitted by BBPA published October 2010 on the Committee's website Back

25   Q24 Back

26   Q118 Back

27   See Table above BII Ev 50 Back

28   Q120 Back

29   Ev 88 Back

30   Q120 Back

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Prepared 20 September 2011