Could yesterday’s defeat of the Government in the Commons be a straw in the wind, hinting that MPs are starting to listen to their constituents? Certainly it was a blow for the big business pubcos who have done so much damaged to rural communities. The value of their shares dropped today.
The MPs voted to end the stiff rules that force tenants of pubs owned by the pubcos — getting on for half of Britain’s pubs — to pay much more for their beer than free houses. The BBC report has a table of prices paid by landlords who are “tied” (forced to buy beer from their the pubco rather than on the open market). The worst example is a keg of Fosters which wholesales for £81.49 but is sold by pubcos to their tenants for £150.22.
This is one of the reasons why so many people who hopefully start their own business running a pub end up getting out of the trade. For villages the pub is particularly important. It is not simply a social meeting place but it is often the only restaurant.
Having a pub that serves food is for me a mark of a village which has a sustainable future. We all need a local restaurant for celebrations and when we simply don’t want to cook at home.
Losing the vote on an amendment to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill seems to have come as a surprise to the coalition leaders. Forty one Liberal Democrat and Tory MPs ignored the whip and went into the lobby with Labour MPs. It was the first defeat in a whipped vote in this parliament.
Maybe MPs are starting to take more notice of what they hear in their constituencies and less of their leaders as the prospect of next general election draws closer. There are probably few MPs, other than those who are retiring, who are not worried about their prospects of re-election: these are strange and turbulent times in politics.
The change in the way pubs are run will not be immediate, even assuming the Government does not try to reverse the decision. A five-year transition is proposed.