British Pub Confederation chair Greg Mulholland has threatened to seek a judicial review of Paul Newby’s appointment as pub code adjudicator if he refuses step down from the role.

Speaking at a debate on the pubs code and the adjudicator yesterday, Mulholland said: “Let me make it clear: if Mr. Newby is not removed from the post, an initial early legal opinion taken by the British Pub Confederation is that there are indeed strong grounds for the decision – one that the Department has clearly made on a flawed basis, not taking into account the reality of the situation- to be judicially reviewed.”

Mulholland reiterated his concerns about the appointment of Newby, who was formerly a director at property specialists Fleurets.

“He clearly has a conflict of interest, and it is clearly a disqualifying conflict of interest. Fleurets is the largest surveying practice operating in the very sector that the pubs code is being introduced to regulate. Of course, the reason for that is to protect tenants from abuse by their pubco freeholders.

“Mr Newby’s CV, which is publicly available—although, interestingly, it has been taken off the Pubs Independent Rent Review Scheme website—openly advertises for whom he acts. Let me list the six companies that Mr Newby is required to regulate: Enterprise Inns, Punch Taverns, Marston’s, Greene King, Heineken—which is Star Pubs & Bars—and Admiral Taverns. Who do he and his firm currently, and boastfully, say they act for? Enterprise Inns, Punch Taverns, Marston’s, Greene King, Heineken and Admiral Taverns. He clearly is conflicted and biased.”

However, Department of Business, Innovation and Skills minister Anna Soubry robustly defended the appointment, saying she agreed with the Publican’s Morning Advertiser’s Ed Bedington and his editorial about judging the adjudicator by his actions .

She said: “I took my decision with great care. Three candidates were placed before me, all of them eminently appointable. I took the view that Mr.Newby was the best of the three. Those other two people are real human beings and they were exceptionally good candidates but he shone out.

“The idea that I did not consider whether his appointment might please some more than others is frankly rather patronising. I wanted to appoint someone who I believed had the skills, the ability and, most importantly, integrity to ensure that there was a level playing field and fairness.”