Business minister Ed Davey has flatly refused accusations from pubco critics that he’s a “sell out” for his decision not to implement a statutory code of practice governing pub company/tenant relationships. Writing on the blog site Liberal Democrat Voice, Davey defended his decision to reject a statutory route, as called for by the Business, Innovation & Skills Committee (BISC), in favour of strengthened self regulation. Davey wrote: “While I’ve not delivered government regulation, I have delivered a self-regulatory regime so much stronger than the past, that it looks and feels like a law – but it’s actually been delivered, and at least two or three years faster than an Act of Parliament would have done.” He said the Government’s response is “a balanced package, to preserve what is best about the industry, and to clean up what has at times been quite outrageous”. He gives examples of the positive actions being proposed. Making the industry’s code of practice legally binding is the “self-regulatory version of a statutory code”, Davey said, while the new independent mediation service will be “a regulator in all but name”. “We’ve made it clear to the British Beer & Pub Association and a range of other players on the landlord side, that we expect this whole package to be introduced at speed.” Davey defended his decision not to act on the beer tie, saying the issue is “more complex than the campaigners’ demands suggest”. The minister said he’s “always been worried by the tie” but the “real problem is not with the traditional tied tenancy, but with the fully repairing and insuring leases – mostly but not exclusively used by the pubcos”. “These ‘FRI’ [fully repairing and insuring] leases have been at the root of the vast majority of the most serious unfairnesses that I have seen and read about. “That’s why my solution targets those FRI leases – and leaves alone the traditional tied tenancy model, used successfully and in the most part amicably by local and regional brewers alike. It’s the business model, not the tie, that has caused the problem, and that’s where the code of practice will now be strengthened. “So to those Lib Dems and those campaigners who may decide to argue that this is a ‘sell out’, I have to disagree in the strongest possible terms. “The truth is we have got the pubcos to agree to things they never expected they would have to sign up to. Tenants and lessees will now have a means to enforce the code when a landlord is in breach. And because we have achieved a quick solution, bringing certainty to the industry, I believe we will now see a boost to investment that everyone so desperately needs.”