Government bill defeated in Commons as time is called on tied pubs

A government bill to maintain the tied pub model – a 400-year-old practice in which pub tenants are only allowed to purchase beer made by the companies that own their pubs – has been defeated in the House of Commons.

According to the FT, it is the first whipped vote on one of its own bills the government has lost.

The decision means that pub tenants will now be able to buy beer from any supplier they wish, and the only remaining tie to the company that owns the pub will be the rent of the site.

This will have a major impact on the pub landscape in the UK. Roughly a third of pubs in Britain are operated under the tied model.

The vast majority of these are owned by the groups Enterprise Inns and Punch Taverns.

Enterprise Inns chief executive Simon Townsend described the ruling as “unwelcome”, and said “This amendment is a disproportionate response which proposes fundamental change that is wholly contrary to the findings of the consultation, from which the bill was drawn up.”

But the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) praised the vote. Tim Page, Camra’s chief executive, said: “Allowing over 13,000 pub tenants tied to the large pub companies the option of buying beer on the open market at competitive prices will help keep pubs open and ensure the cost of a pint to consumers remains affordable.”

The bill, which was an amendment to the small business, enterprise and employment bill, was passed by 284 votes to 269, after 17 Tories rebelled.

One of the rebel Tories said: “I can’t support crony capitalism. We are meant to be a party of free markets and enterprise.”

The defeat will be particularly humiliating for Tory MPs Mathew Hancock and Michael Gove. Hancock was the lead minister on the bill, and Gove is now the party’s chief whip.

Several Tory MPs are thought to have steered clear of the chamber during the vote as many of their constituents felt strongly in favour of ending tied pubs.

Hancock was spotted apologising to David Cameron after the defeat, the FT reports.

Ministers may now debate whether to try and have the decision reversed in the House of Lords to prevent it from becoming law.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Punch Taverns and Enterprise Inns have done untold damage to the pubs of this country.

    Their business model seems to be persuading people to invest their redundancy money in doing up their pubs, then bleeding them dry with inflated beer prices and crippling rents.

    When the tenants go bust, the pubcos get rid of them and look for someone else's life savings to plunder.

    The beer tie denies customers the range of drinks that they deserve, and allows crap brewers to get away with selling crap beer. It has gone on far too long, and the outlawing of this archaic behaviour is long overdue.

    It's no wonder the Tories tried to support this law. It shows that once again, their only interest is in protecting the profits of big corporations, with no interest in the public or our nation's pubs, which are part of our heritage.

    Well done to those Tories who rebelled, and those members of the opposition who voted against this proposal.

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