The introduction of the long-awaited pubs code, which was due to be implemented this month, has been set back by 'technical errors'.
Announcing the delay today, business minister Anna Soubry said that work to close loopholes in the legislation would be carried out as quickly as possible, but could not say when exactly she expected it to be finally implemented.
In a statement, Soubry said: 'The government has worked hard to meet the challenging deadline laid down by the Small Business Enterprise and Employment Act 2015.
'Since laying the pubs code regulations, we have identified a small number of technical drafting errors. It is important to get the pubs code right for both tenants and pub-owning businesses.
'Therefore the government withdrew the regulations yesterday in order to deal with these errors. This means that the pubs code will not be in force by 26 May as previously set out. The regulations are subject to the affirmative procedure, and so parliament will have an opportunity to debate the content and give the regulations full scrutiny.'
According to the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, the issues relate to the investment exception and the way the maximum penalty is calculated following an investigation. A further drafting error would have discriminated against tied pub tenants who are contracted out of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 provisions, on the right to renew a tenancy agreement.
The delay is likely to cause further frustration among many in the pub industry, who have already criticised key parts of the new legislation, and raised concerns over its implementation. Core elements of the code were branded ‘unworkable’ by trade groups when announced in April.
Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), said: 'We share ministers' frustrations that the implementation of the code has been delayed as a result of procedural concerns raised at parliamentary committee but it does mean that an important mistake made in the drafting of the regulations can be corrected and that, as a result, tenants will have better protection and a more workable code.
'A short delay in order to get things right is a signal that the government is listening to our industry.'
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said: 'The government has made the right decision in recognising that more work is needed on the draft regulations. We are committed to working with them to bring the new Code into force as soon as possible and believe that a period of reflection will give time for the Adjudicator to issue guidance.'
Under the new regulations, tenants of pub companies and breweries that operate 500+ pubs will be able to request a Market Rent Only (MRO) agreement, meaning they will no longer be tied to buy drinks and other products direct from their landlords.