Representatives of a much loved Cotswold brewery, Hook Norton, met Mid Worcestershire MP Peter Luff this week to express their fears about government plans for the pub trade.
At one of the brewery’s pubs, the Trumpet Inn in Evesham, James Clarke, Managing Director of Hook Norton, Jonathan Paveley its Chairman and Bruce Benyon, Operations Manager explained how crucial the big pub companies like Enterprise and Punch were to the distribution of the beers of smaller brewers.
The government is currently considering changes to the regulation of pub companies to address the concerns of tenants about the poor treatment they have received at the hands of the major pub companies.
But Hook Norton told Peter Luff that the industry was already changing for the better and that the proposed code of conduct could seriously undermine the distribution of the smaller brewers' beers, leaving consumers with less choice and helping the bigger brewers to larger profits.
“I have been involved with this issue for many years going back to the Beer Orders of the late 1980s and again in the last parliament as Chairman of the Business, Innovation and Skills committee. The evidence the committee took convinced me that some of the biggest pub companies were treating their tenants appallingly and there was a need for government intervention if self-regulation could not be made to work. I had concluded, three years on, that self-regulation had indeed failed and that a code of conduct was now needed, but what I heard from Hook Norton this week has forced me to think again.
“This is a compacted market and the risk that more disruptive change could make things worse, just when the pub companies seem to be mending their ways, is one that deserves very careful consideration.
“If the government unintentionally undermined smaller brewers it would not quickly be forgiven by the nation’s beer drinkers.”
Peter also talked to Karen Swayne, the licensee of the Trumpet Inn, who told him what a good relationship she enjoyed with Hook Norton Brewery. They also discussed the arrangements to keep people coming to Evesham during the period of the Abbey Bridge closure.