Punch Taverns executive chairman Stephen Billingham has written to Vince Cable demanding a meeting after the Business Secretary’s ‘gaffe’ last week.

It follows All Party Parliamentary Beer Group chairman Andrew Griffiths’s call for Cable to remove himself from the decision-making process on a proposed statutory pub code, stating he has “no confidence” in Cable’s ability to make a decision.

Cable told attendees at the Campaign for Real Ale’s (CAMRA) annual Parliamentary Reception last week that he was “on their side” and that they could expect an announcement on plans for a statutory code to regulate the pubco/tenant relationship “soon”.

However, later in the evening, in conversation with Griffiths, Cable allegedly said: “I thought Punch had already gone bust.”

Punch central operations director Andy Slee said the pubco had written to the business secretary calling for a meeting to explain in detail Punch’s refinancing process.

”Stephen Billingham, our executive chairman, has written to Vince Cable to ask for a meeting to discuss both Punch-specific and pubco issues to clear up any uncertainty that there might be,” Slee told M&C Report’s sister title the Publican’s Morning Advertiser.

Griffiths, who is MP for Burton, home of Punch Taverns, said: “Given the startling revelation that the Business Secretary doesn’t even know if one of the country’s largest pub companies is still trading, it is essential Cable gets himself on a crash course to actually understand the businesses he is ruling on.

“He must meet Punch Taverns as a matter of urgency to educate himself just what the consequences of his consultation are.”