By Gillian McKenzie
PROPOSED legislation which could free up the beer tie for pub tenants has been backed by Tennent Caledonian Breweries (TCB).
The Tennent’s lager owner, which is part of C&C Group, voiced its support for an amendment to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill which states the pubcos with 500 or more outlets will have to offer a market rent only option; the measure, which was voted for by 284 MPs versus 269 in the House of Commons late last month, will effectively ‘break’ the beer tie, enabling pub tenants to buy beer and other products from any supplier.
The amendment to the Bill, which is due to reach the committee stage in the House of Lords on January 7, has drawn fire from the major pubcos, which have said it will threaten investment and damage pubs.
But TCB has backed the move – and joined in calls for the measures outlined in the Bill, which currently only covers premises in England and Wales, to apply to pub tenants north of the border.
TCB’s John Gilligan said: “In Scotland, there’s still work to be done.
“The amendment won’t constitute law – but we believe it’s in the interest of Scotland’s pubs for Holyrood to also implement the legislation at the same pace as the rest of the UK.
“We are keen to work with the political parties and mobilise cross-industry support to try and develop the opportunities presented by this historic decision.
“We recognise that the tied pub model may have worked in the past but times have changed and it is appropriate that the model evolves.”
Long-term campaigner for pubco reform Lynn Adams, who runs The George bar in Hamilton, welcomed TCB’s support.
“It is heartening when companies like TCB recognise the potential that this legislation could bring, not just for suppliers or tenants but to the customers who are deserving of the choices this would bring,” she said.
“We’re all working together – pub tenants, the SLTA, CAMRA and Tennent’s.
“I am excited about the support for Scottish tenants and I look forward to taking this forward in the new year to get a result for Scottish tenants.”
CAMRA said it is continuing its work to ensure Scottish pubs are covered by the measures outlined in the Bill.
“The operation of the beer tie in Scotland is in clear need of reform,” said a spokesman for the organisation.
“CAMRA will be meeting with Scottish Government officials in the new year alongside the Scottish Licensed Trade Association to press for action to protect pub tenants from unfair practices.”
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We will be meeting with the SLTA, as well as other interests, early next year and we look forward to receiving evidence from them in support of their position. We support small businesses and our general policy is that they must secure fair treatment from their larger suppliers.”