The appointment of Fleurets director Paul Newby as the first Pubs Code Adjudicator has been met with criticism by pub campaigners.
Newby, who will take up his role on 2 May, will be responsible for enforcing the Statutory Pubs Code that the government has said will now be introduced by the end of May.
Newby will have powers to arbitrate individual disputes about breaches of the Code, including disputes between licensees and pub companies on rent, and market rent only options. It will also be his responsibility to investigate suspected systemic breaches of the Code more widely across the sector, including imposing sanctions and financial penalties on pub companies who break the new rules. According to Business Minister Anna Soubry, Newby was appointed following 'open competition' for the role.
However, his appointment has been met with criticism by pro-licensee campaigners, who have raised concerns that Newby's role as a commercial property surveyor means he has a conflict of interest.
Greg Mulholland, MP for Leeds North West and Chair of the Save the Pub Group took to Twitter today to voice his concerns. He said: 'The appointments of a surveyor who acts for #pubcos as #PubsAdjudicator is like a #Tesco adviser being Grocery Code Adjudicator! #stitchup.'
Politicshome.com earlier reported that speaking in the Commons this morning, Mulholland said: 'How can he possibly be trusted to be impartial given his salary has been dependent for 20 years on those he must now adjudicate and potentially impose financial penalties on?'
Soubry defended the appointment, saying: 'Mr Newby hasn’t just represented, as I said, Mr Speaker, pub trade companies, but also tenants. He has 30 years of experience effectively representing both sides. He is an experienced arbitrator.'
Soubry added: “He has a wealth of experience in arbitration and is sensitive to the challenges that the pub industry faces. The Pubs Code will ensure the 12,000 tied tenants of the six largest pub-owning companies can secure a fair deal and a better livelihood.”