It’s “increasingly unlikely” that tenanted pub companies will be subject to legislation during this Parliament, according to leading analyst Nigel Parson.
Parson, of Dryburgh Research, also warned of the risk for pubcos if a Labour or Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition was formed after the election with a “more radical legislative mandate”. He said he is “less bullish” about the listed tenanted pub operators, specifically Punch, Enterprise and Marston’s.
Parson pointed out that the Government will have until 30 March 2015, little more than a year, from publishing its report into pubco action, draft a bill and proceed through both houses of Parliament and get Royal Assent before Parliament is dissolved before the General Election on that date.
“It can be done, but it’s tight,” he said. “The Groceries Code Adjudicator Act went from first reading in the House of Lords on 10 May 2012 to Royal Assent on 25 April 2013. The legislation needs to be simple and would need to be a government-sponsored bill. We would expect it to be part of the Queen’s Speech in May as part of the government’s legislative agenda for the final session.
“However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, the draft Modern Slavery Bill was not announced as part of the Queen’s Speech in 2013.”
Parson said the delay in publishing its response is “useful” for the industry in that it allows the sector to “continue moving back into equilibrium”.
Firstly, the licensed sector is “emerging from the recession leaner and fitter” and in a good position to benefit from upturns in trading, aided by a good summer and Christmas.
Secondly, it “gives the industry more time to demonstrate to government and tenants alike that the Voluntary Code Version Six is working”.
Parson said the debate in Parliament in January, where Labour criticised the delay in pubco reform, illustrates the “radical and entrenched nature of the opposition” over the issue. Labour’s shadow business minister Toby Perkins has called for a mandatory free-of-tie option, fully transparent and independent rent reviews and an independent body to monitor and adjudicate disputes.
He said: “It is increasingly unlikely that the tenanted pubcos will be the subject of legislation in this parliament. Business Secretary Vince Cable remains outwardly committed to this route, but the BIS response is now four months overdue.
“Is this the perfect scenario for pubcos? Well, no. The industry would like the uncertainty resolved so that it can move$ on. It could live with limited legislation with a Statutory Code and Adjudicator.
“What it fears is a Labour or Lib/Lab government and more radical legislation.”