Business Secretary Greg Clark has written a response to Iain Wright, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, saying he disagrees with the committee’s view that the appointment process for the Pubs Code Adjudicator should be reopened.
Wright's letter from 21 July argued that Clark should reopen the appointment process, stating that current adjudicator Paul Newby would not be able to command the trust of pub tenants. He urged the government to choose a candidate that would attract confidence of tenants and pub companies.
In his response, Clark said he believes the appointment process was run in accordance with the code of practice and had considered whether Newby had conflicts of interest, concluding he did not.
“The Government’s whitewash of Paul Newby’s clear and disqualifying conflicts of interest is dishonest and sinister," said Greg Mulholland, chair of the Parliamentary Save the Pub Group and of the British Pub Confederation.
"This is an affront to a Parliamentary Select Committee but also a disgraceful attempt to brush the failures of the Government in this recruitment under the carpet."
Newby's appointment on 2 May was criticised by a Lib Dem MP, the chair of the British Pub Confederation and the Labour Party because of his previous employment at big pub companies including Enterprise Inns and Punch Taverns.
The Pubs Code is a regulatory framework that governs the relationship between the UK's six largest pub owning companies (pubcos) and their tied tenants in England and Wales.
Wright said the government's decision not to reopen the appointment process is "short-sighted" and will further sour many relationships between pub companies and their tenants. He also stressed a "strong and clear" conflict of interest with Newby as adjudicator.
“If the Pubs Code Adjudicator is to command the confidence of all of the trade’s stakeholders, then they must be seen as independent, impartial and without financial interests in any company which derives revenue from one side of the trade. Mr Newby, sadly, cannot demonstrate this. As a result, his ability to win confidence and respect throughout the industry and to do his job has already been compromised," said Wright.
A spokesperson at BEIS said: “The office of the Pubs Code Adjudicator is up and running, publishing guidance on tenants’ new rights and fielding enquiries through its helpline and website. We would encourage anyone with a stake in the pub business to work with Paul Newby to raise the profile of the Code and improve relationships across the industry.”
Brigid Simmonds, CEO of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: "This was always a matter for the government rather than pub operators and trade associations, but it is good to see an end to any potential uncertainty over the role. We are committed to continued constructive working with Paul Newby and his office."