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New pub code of practice will reform the sector, says Forum

The Forum of Private Business has welcomed plans for a new code of practice governing the pub sector, which includes a powerful adjudicator body to help solve disputes about so-called beer tie contracts.

The move is the first step towards properly enforcing fairness in the sector, which has seen thousands of pubs close over the past few years, said the Forum. The code would contain mandatory rules for all companies owning more than 500 pubs and would aim to stop abuses of the beer tie, which has been partly blamed for pub closures.

Under the proposals, the adjudicator would have the power to enforce the code and deal with disputes through sanctions and fines. "Reform to the pub sector is long overdue and we are delighted to see a consultation published today for an adjudicator in the sector," said Forum spokesman Robert Downes.

"The pub sector is under a great deal of pressure and the big companies have not helped ease the pressure. This development should help restore the balance of power. The adjudicator model, funded by the companies it investigates, is therefore a direct incentive for them to improve the current system too."

He added: "Many publicans are trying to run businesses with both hands tied behind their backs due to the models they are forced to follow, so it's really pleasing to see at the heart of the consultation that a tied licensee will not be worse off than a free-of-tie licensee. This is key to ensuring publicans have more autonomy to make their businesses a success.

"Pubs are small businesses and are an inherent part of the communities they serve, much the same as local shops are. We need to make sure they can survive and trade profitably on a fair and level playing field, and this seems the only way to achieve those conditions."

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