Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock has thrown his weight behind a proposal ensuring a fairer deal for pub tenants.
An amendment has been suggested for a bill going through parliament that would let pubs enter a rent-only deal with the company that owns them.
The move would allow pubs to buy beer on the open market and not be restricted to a list set by a big firm – which is a more expensive route.
MP Greg Mulholland, chairman of the Save the Pub Group, has put forward the idea and hopes it will be voted on in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
It would cover pubs owned by a firm with more than 500 venues in their stock.
And Mr Hancock, a member of the pub group, has pledged to back the amendment to help protect local pubs and ensure they thrive.
‘This gives tenants the opportunity to have another way of running a pub,’ he said. ‘It could be the difference between a person running a pub consistently and walking away.
‘It’s good for the customers and it’s good for the pubs.’
The Small Business Bill already includes plans for a pubs code and an adjudicator to support tenants, but Mr Mulholland believes it is not enough.
It comes after Portsmouth City Council agreed to write to Mr Mulholland supporting his motion – called New Clause 2 – and lobby the city’s MPs to vote in favour.
Lib Dem councillors Darren Sanders and Hugh Mason put before the full council this week the suggestion that next week’s parliamentary debate should be backed.
It came during a council meeting in which Ukip members suggested the Tory cabinet considers buying up struggling pubs and taking rent to ensure they survive.
But the Conservatives said the risk was too great and communities should instead pursue the government’s right to buy scheme, which enables residents to buy pubs first when they’re put up for sale.
Ukip councillor Paul Godier says the scheme wouldn’t work in less affluent residential areas.
‘It’s not to say that the scheme is bad, it’s just very limited on who it can help,’ Cllr Godier said.
‘In times like this I feel we should do something.
‘I’m not asking for us to buy up every pub, but we should look at our options if a community is to lose part of its identity.’
Cllr Luke Stubbs, Tory deputy leader of the council, said firms wouldn’t want to flog pubs if they were successful. ‘Pub chains are businesses and make decisions on a financial basis,’ he said.
PORTSMOUTH’S Labour group has condemned the idea of ‘state-run pubs’ ever being in existence.
Councillor John Ferrett, Labour group leader, said public money should be used to protect front-line services and not prop up pubs in the community.
And he said it would send an ‘appalling’ message to the public if the city council was to ever go down that route.
Speaking at this week’s council debate, Cllr Ferrett, pictured right, said: ‘Councils are the last organisations that should be going into the business of running pubs.
‘We should not send money in that direction if we believe social services are more important.
‘We would be sending an appalling message to the public if we spent money in this way.’
Lib Dem councillor Lee Hunt suggested the council could set up a planning document specifically that protects pubs, rather like the one which stops uncontrollable increases in the number of houses in multiple occupation.
Cllr Luke Stubbs, Tory deputy leader, said The Good Companion in Eastern Road, Portsmouth, enjoys protection in planning terms because it is the only pub in that area so it can’t just be demolished.
But he admitted there were still an ‘oversupply of pubs’ in Portsmouth and that was a factor in closures happening.
‘With the amount of trade there is, we have still got more pubs than we have got trade for,’ he said.
‘If you go in the pubs during the week there is hardly anyone in them.’