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Today I voted against the Government to ensure pub landlords across North East Cambridgeshire have the freedom to shop around for the best deal, rather than being tied to a contract with a Pub Company that forces them to pay higher prices.

Known as the “market-rent only option”, it means that landlords and their customers will be less likely to suffer rip-off beer prices and excessive rents from large Pub Companies (Pubcos).

This change is supported by CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale) and the Federation of Small Businesses, and means that pub tenants tied to the large pub companies which own more than 500 pubs can opt for a rent only deal allowing them to buy beer on the open market. At present they are usually forced to buy through their Pubco where the price charged is up to 70% more than the brewery price to other customers.

I have seen within North East Cambridegshire landlords and their families suffer great stress and financial pressure due to the high charges imposed by Pubcos. This change in the relationship with Pubcos has been recommended four times in Parliamentary select committee reports, and it is now right that Parliament has acted.

Today’s vote does not affect important small family brewers like Elgoods, which are important local businesses who take a long term interest in our community. Nor is this change the panacea that some campaigners claim. It does however offer improvement for landlords and their families from the abusive pricing imposed by Pubcos.

Tim Page, Chief Executive of CAMRA said that “Far too many pubs have been lost permanently as a result of the pub companies squeezing the life out of them with excessive rents and tied beer prices. Allowing pub tenants to choose the best deal for them will put huge commercial pressure on the large pub companies to cut their beer prices to competitive levels. Such a move would benefit over 10,000 pubs, help pub tenants make a living, help keep pubs open and help keep the cost of a pint to consumers affordable.

As a Conservative I believe in giving people greater freedom and in opening markets up to competition to drive prices down, and today’s vote does that for landlords. It is disappointing that I had to rebel to do so, but I believe this is in the best interest of both landlords and customers across North East Cambridgeshire.

Today is a good day for Parliament, and a good day for Pubs.

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