Heineken Takeover of Punch Pubs March 2017

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding Heineken's proposed takeover of Punch Taverns.

I agree that this is an important issue. The pub is a long-established part of British life, with local pubs forming the hubs of many communities. I believe we must do everything we can to ensure that they continue to enjoy this role.

Heineken states that its proposed takeover "is a huge vote of confidence in the Great British Pub" and has sought to reassure people that it will enable its pubs to sell a number of non-Heineken beers. However, I know that a number of organisations have expressed concern at the proposed takeover. The Campaign for Real Ale, for example, has said that it is "seriously concerned" at the proposal and that "any attempt to monopolise the industry" would "go against the spirit of the great British pub."

I understand that the Competition and Markets Authority has opened an investigation into the proposed takeover to see whether it could reduce competition and choice for customers. If it finds that the takeover could reduce competition, the CMA would launch an in-depth merger investigation, unless the merging parties are able to address the concerns identified. The initial phase of the CMA investigation is scheduled to last until 24 April. I can assure you that I will continue to monitor this issue.

On a wider note, I believe it is important that pub tenants are given a fair deal and that there is a level playing field between tenants and pub companies. I note that the Pubs Code, which aims to do just that, came into force in July 2016. However, I am concerned that there are serious questions about the effectiveness and implementation of the Code, as well as over the role and conduct of the Pubs Code Adjudicator (PCA). The House of Commons Select Committee on Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, for example, has raised a number of concerns about potential conflicts of interest relating to the current PCA, Paul Newby. I believe the Government must look into these serious concerns and at how to increase the transparency and fairness of the PCA's role. It is vital that the PCA is truly impartial and independent, so that pub tenants can be satisfied that the Code is working correctly.

Thank you once again for contacting me and for sharing your views on this issue.