I am, unfortunately, old enough in political terms to recall the “liberation” of the brewery and pub business introduced by the now Lord Young of Graffham under Margaret Thatcher`s administration.
This was hailed, at the time, as the panacea that would end the stranglehold of powerful breweries over pub landlords and create competition in the marketplace. The irony is that it was this measure that not only saw the break-up of a once-proud brewing industry, the merger and foreign takeover of family-name breweries and the closure of many pubs (exacerbated, of course, by necessary drink-driving laws and unnecessary smoking restrictions) but that actually created the ground upon which the now reviled “pubcos” have been built!
You may appreciate, therefore, that I am more than a little wary of the law of unintended consequences that may arise from populist and not entirely well thought-through proposals to amend the small business bill.
I am a staunch supporter of micro-breweries and micro-pubs and I can see the need for some fine-tuning of the tie and of the desirability of encouraging tied houses to permit the sale of more “guest ales”. I can also see that unless a proper balance is struck – and I am not persuaded that New Clause 2 strikes that balance – then still more pubs will close or fall into disrepair and that the “protection” afforded to our few remaining family breweries and linked estates will be eroded on the “thin end of the wedge” principle.
I do not believe that this, or any, Government enjoys a monopoly of wisdom but neither do I believe that we should legislate on an opportunist basis only to regret decisions later. I shall, therefore, continue to press for review and modification of the relationship between the owners of pub chains and their tenants while opposing New Clause 2.