Liberal Democrat pub campaigner Greg Mulholland MP has written to Punch Taverns managing director Roger Whiteside calling on the company to clarify its free-of-tie options, writes Adam Pescod. He has expressed concerns with the wording of Punch Taverns’ free of tie proposal, which he believes could “mislead” and “misrepresent” the Punch option to both licensees, MPs and ministers. He has made the calls in the days before the Business, Innovation & Skills Committee’s (BISC) follow-up inquiry into pubcos kicks off on Thursday. Mulholland said the free-of-tie option simply allows tenants to buy from a different price list, and is not free-of-tie. He has called on Punch to rename these agreements to ensure transparency and clarity of their free-of-tie options. In his letter to Whiteside, Mulholland asked for clarity on how the level of discount is established and whether it will be adjusted to reflect changes in the discount to free of tie operators over time. Mullholland said: “The recent Save the Pub Group meeting very helpfully helped establish that no pub company is offering a genuine free of tie option with open market rent review. “Punch Taverns have been involved in a lot of PR and lobbying, but I am extremely concerned that the information they are sending out, both to tenants and MPs is seriously and deliberately misleading. “To describe a lease option as ‘free-of-tie pricing’ when it is nothing of the sort, is wholly dishonest and unacceptable and could be perceived as an attempt to dupe MPs and tenants into thinking they have done what the Select Committee said they must do, when they have not. “Punch and the other companies can, of course, tell the Select Committee that believe they have changed and improved how they operate; but they must not try to suggest they have complied with what the Committee said they must do to avoid intervention, when they have already confirmed publicly that they have not and are actually not able to do so due to the structuring of their business model."