The Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Committee has called on the government to replace new Pubs Code adjudicator Paul Newby. The request has come amidst continued controversy surrounding the adjudicator’s close ties to pubcos.
In calling for a new adjudicator to be appointed, Iain Wright MP, chair of the BIS committee, cited a perceived conflict of interest and an inability to command the trust of pub tenants.
Newby, previously a director and property surveyor at commercial property agent Fleurets, has come under fire since his appointment was announced in March under then business secretary Sajid Javid. Newby’s previous role was one which saw him act on behalf of some of the UK’s largest pubcos.
The new Pubs Code was finally implemented on 21 July, with Newby set to arbitrate individual disputes about breaches of the code. These include disputes between licensees and pub companies on rent, and market rent-only options.
It is also his responsibility to investigate suspected systemic breaches of the code, including imposing sanctions and financial penalties on pub companies who break the new rules.
Wright has written to the new secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy, Greg Clark, calling on him to reopen the appointment process and choose a candidate ‘who can attract the confidence of tenants as well as pub companies’.
Wright said: ‘While the committee has no reason to question Paul Newby’s integrity or his qualifications for the job, his long-standing relationship with pubcos through his past work and a continued financial connection has created a strong perception of a conflict of interest.’
He continued: ‘The Pubs Code has the potential to significantly improve the embittered relationship between pubcos and many of their tenants, but it will only work if the adjudicator is seen to be independent and is able to command the confidence of all the industry’s stakeholders.’
Wright finally added that ‘the committee would like to see a new Pubs Code adjudicator appointed from outside the sector, to ensure that this important role is, and is seen to be, completely independent and impartial’.