All hail the Casked Crusader and his cross party supporters!

The Casked Crusader

Greg Mulholland and MPs from all parties should be toasted (in the drinks sense not the fork over the fire sense) in every pub in England tonight. Greg’s amendment to the Small Business Bill, giving pub landlords in tied houses the right to a fair rent, squeaked through the House of Commons by a margin of just 15 votes.

28 Liberal Democrats and 15 Tories defied the Government whips to pass the measure, overturning the Government’s usual majority of about 60. It’s a good, transformative liberal measure which takes power from large companies and gives it to struggling landlords. Gareth Epps deserves a whole heap of praise as well for his pretty tireless campaigning on the issue.

I don’t need much of an excuse to use this photo of Greg if the truth be known, but it’s particularly appropriate tonight.  The Sun dubbed him the Casked Crusader a couple of years ago and it never gets old.

He tweeted ecstatically as the result came in:

He was quick to thank all MPs and campaigners who had fought so hard:

Typically, the Guardian displayed its “If it’s good it must have been Labour” attitude:

Andrew Sparrow gives

Greg responded thus:

The paper’s Patrick Wintour had more of a clue though:

But, anyway, let’s not quibble. We’ll put Greg’s speech up here later along with any other news of the Government’s first properly whipped defeat of the Parliament. In the meantime, raise a glass of your favourite ale.

UPDATE: 21:40

Here is the closing part of Greg Mulholland’s speech proposing the new Clause 2, giving pub landlords the right to a market rent only option. In so doing, he had to go up against the Minister – a fellow Liberal Democrat, Jo Swinson. She was arguing the case for a review after two years, but Greg was having none of that. This last section sees him talk about the human consequences of the current situation, the antics of the pubcos to try and stop his amendment and his final statement that there should be “no more delays, no more excuses, no more reviews.” It’s a bit of a barnstormer.

Every pub is a story about a community, and a story about the people who are running it. There have indeed been many tragedies. I had one in my constituency; a pubco tenant died of a heart attack a week after closing his pub. There are awful stories of human misery here. It comes down to the simple problem I outlined at the beginning: the over-charging. These companies continue to take more than is fair. It can often be 70%, 80%, 90% or even 100% of the pub’s profit, meaning that licensees cannot make a living.

Most revealing of all, I have asked Punch Taverns—in writing, and to its representatives’ faces—four times why it is so afraid of the market rent only option, the simple option to give tenants the right, at certain trigger points, to be offered a fair commercial market rent, and it has failed to answer four times. That, Mr Deputy Speaker, tells you all you need to know. It tells you that this business model is precisely based on taking more than is fair and sustainable. The only solution is the market rent only option.

Let me deal finally with the Government’s suggestion of a compromise: “Perhaps we can include a reference to the market rent only option or the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee option being built into the Bill, but only after a review two years after the statutory code comes into force.” I understand why this is being said, because the will of this House is clearly in support of the market rent only option, with 90 coalition MPs signed up to the Fair Deal for Your Local campaign, which calls for that option. I understand why the Government Whips are getting so worried: they realise that they might lose this vote today.

Let me say clearly on behalf of the campaign and all the organisations that have expressed this view that the last thing we need is yet another review. We have had four exhaustive Select Committee reports. In 2011, when the Government were supposed to act, we had a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills review, and BIS decided not to act. What was supposed to be the last chance became a second-last chance for the pub companies. When people realised that nothing had changed, there was a further review. We have had four reports and two reviews. The simple reality is that we need action and need it now. I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to grant a vote on new clause 2; I think that you will agree that it is the will of the House to vote on it, given the support for it.

The simple message from all the Fair Deal for Your Local campaigns, thousands of tied publicans, and all who believe in pubs, publicans, communities and fairness is “No more delays, no more reviews, no more excuses.” Please let us solve this problem at last, properly, once and for all. Please let us all vote for new clause 2 today.

 

Lib Dem MPs voting with Mulholland and against the Government

Norman Baker (free from constrains of ministerial office)

Alan Beith

Annette Brooke

Paul Burstow

Mike Crockart

Tim Farron

Steve Gilbert

Duncan Hames

David Heath

John Hemming

Martin Horwood

Julian Huppert

John Leech

Greg Mulholland

John Pugh

Alan Reid

Ian Swales

Andrew Stunell

Adrian Sanders

Mike Thornton

John Thurso

David Ward

Mark Williams

Roger Williams

It seems that one Clegg, Nicholas was absent, too.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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21 Comments

  • What will we do when pubs are still closing down at the same or an accelerated rate next year and the year after? Still blame “big business” or accept that demographics are shifting and there simply isn’t the market for 3 pubs in every tiny village?

  • Nigel Cheeseman 18th Nov '14 - 5:33pm

    This is excellent news for tenants in the trade, and for small brewers. Provided, that is, that the pubcos don’t find a way round it. Congratulations to all concerned.

  • Nigel Cheeseman 18th Nov '14 - 6:55pm

    Enterprise running an advert on this site, ” Want to run a pub? ”
    Well, no. I did, but one of your fellow pubcos rather spoilt it by creaming off all the profits.

  • Bill Le Breton 18th Nov '14 - 7:08pm

    Thomas, that IS churlish. Rents are a huge issue. If a pub remains closed for long enough planning permission soon follows for a change of use and village life dies more than a little. Many families work long hours to keep their pub a thriving centre of community activity only to find pubcos push rents up extortionately at every review point. A pub can be a place of responsible drinking, which when closed, encourages young people to fuel up at home before heading into some town centre made squalid by mass intoxication and where local inhabitants are unwelcome.

  • Bill Le Breton 18th Nov '14 - 7:12pm

    That would be stock broker Surrey then George 😉
    B Le B, resident of Hurst Green, 3 pubs and 1 club. Pop 600

  • Peter Andrews 18th Nov '14 - 7:24pm

    Great result for Greg and Co and all tenanted pub landlords across the Country.

  • Great result for Greg.

    Does leave the idea that it is only by being in Government that the Lib Dems can put policies into practice lying in something of a heap of tatters though.

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Nov '14 - 1:15am

    I think this legislation is OK. I think we need a proper debate about what to do about big business – small business relations. Small businesses outnumber big ones, so we have the power to fight for them, but big businesses provide valuable services too.

    As a liberal (yes still a liberal) I don’t really like big things, but big businesses are often collectively owned through pensions, ISAs and savings accounts, so it is a difficult topic.

    I recommend a bit of healthy caution.

  • Steve Comer 19th Nov '14 - 1:40am

    Great news, and good to see that all the e-mails sent by those who care about preserving local pubs had the desired effect. Well done to the 28!
    BTW how many Lib Dems not on the Ministerial payroll voted against?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Nov '14 - 8:05am

    Only Mike Moore from what I can see but people like Ming Campbell weren’t there.

    And, of course, Duncan Hames, the Minister’s husband, voted against the government line;-). I wonder if this has ever happened before.

    I don’t think there will be too much heartbreak in the Lib Dem end of Whitehall, though, at the result.

  • Worth repeating —
    Hywel 19th Nov ’14 – 12:42am “Great result for Greg.
    Does leave the idea that it is only by being in Government that the Lib Dems can put policies into practice lying in something of a heap of tatters though….”

    This has been one of the silliest myths of the last five years. The corrupting idea that it is only worth electing someone to Parliament if they can sit in a government coalition has undermined the thought processes of the party.

    It is built on by the equally stupid myths that you are “not serious” or “only want the luxury of opposition” if you are not prepared to ditch everything you believe in for the chance to be driven around by a ministerial chauffeur.

    These myths are not exclusive to our party. The are the time-worn excuses of political careerists throughout history; the excuses of the people who want to “be something” rather than “do something”.

  • David Evans 19th Nov '14 - 9:15am

    The patent stupidity of us requiring our ministers to follow the government line on something like this shows just how inappropriate cabinet collective responsibility is in a coalition government.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Nov '14 - 10:04am

    How many Liberal Democrat policies have been enacted in the 80 years to 2010?

    And how many in the 4.5 years since?

    There is something to be said for this government lark. Especially when you look at the transformative stuff we did in Scotland when we were in government.

  • @ Caron ‘How many Liberal Democrat policies have been enacted in the 80 years to 2010?’

    How about the NHS and welfare state for one?

  • Nigel Cheeseman 19th Nov '14 - 11:16am

    To get the debate back on thread, the importance to Liberals of this issue is, effectively, about free trade over restrictive practices. Those of our party in government are wrong to stand in the way of abolition of the tie.
    Eddie, you are right that big businesses are owned by pension funds et al. That does not make them ethical. The reason funds and other investors hold shares is to make money from dividends and capital gains. When the law unwittingly provides for unfair advantage by big players in the market, the law must be changed.

  • Malcolm Todd 19th Nov '14 - 11:31am

    Caron
    “How many Liberal Democrat policies have been enacted in the 80 years to 2010?”

    Quite apart from Exiled Scot’s examples (which, whilst valid, are rather long ago) and even if we restrict ourselves to Liberal Democrat policies (which have only existed for the last 25 years), and even if we ignore the real achievements of Liberal Democrats in devolved governments, how about:

    * Devolution for Scotland and Wales (quite an important one for you, Caron, I thought!)
    * PR for European elections (crap PR admittedly, but an improvement on FPTP – and a lot better than an AV Referendum!)
    * Removal of (most) hereditary peers from parliament
    * Continued integration into European structures and laws
    * Immigration rights for Ghurka veterans (we managed that one without even having to persuade the government of the day!)

    I think overall, Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy got more Liberal Democrat policies (especially ones that Lib Dem members really care about) enacted than Nick Clegg has done, despite never having his parliamentary leverage. Clegg’s great achievement has been to get Lib Dems in government jobs; but if you think the point of political parties is about what they can achieve for the people and good government rather than as instruments of patronage, that’s of no interest whatsoever.

  • Bill Le Breton 19th Nov '14 - 11:49am

    Independence over operational policy of the Bank of England – note my qualification.

  • Caron
    Exiled Scot. Malcolm Todd and Bill le Breton have started to answer the first part of your question.
    I could add to the growing list of things that Liberal MPs have achieved in opposition over 80 years.
    There is a danger that answers to your question would become a bit like the answer to the question “What have the Romans ever done for us?”

    It is also quite easy to remember what has gone disastrously wrong in the last four and a half years. Stephen Tall lists just seven of those disasters in his Conservative Home blog published today.

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