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Labour Attack Dorset MP For Failing To Stand Up For Local Pubs

Simon Bowkett

8:06am 24th November 2014

South Dorset MP Richard Drax is under attack from Labour after he voted against a new clause in a Bill to give more protection to local pubs from big chains.

The new amendment to the Small Business Bill was debated in Parliament last week and was passed with 284 votes against 259.

It offered new protections for local publicans against the predatory practices of large pub owning companies (known as pubcos).

Following a report into the industry by the cross-party BIS Select Committee in 2010, Labour has campaigned alongside a broad coalition of groups in the industry - including the Federation of Small Businesses, the Forum of Private Business, CAMRA, FairPint and the GMB and UNITE trade unions - to call for greater protection for local pubs and put a stop to unfair treatment and restrictive practices by pubcos.

But Labour's Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for South Dorset, Simon Bowkett, said: "Richard Drax - who represents a rural community where obviously pubs are very much a part of lifestyle and part of our communities here - is so out of touch that he didn't recognise what an important issue this is."

Mr Bowkett added; "In the past, Richard Drax has been more than happy to be portrayed as a champion of the pub trade, but he had the opportunity to vote for new measures which would help support local landlords, and instead chose to stand up for the large pub companies and to allow them to continue to exploit their local pub tenants."

"27 pubs close every week and 57% of landlords who are tied to a large pubco earn less than £10,000 a year.  These are scandals which must be addressed, and so I was proud that Labour MPs voted to make this important change.  If I am elected in May, people in South Dorset can be assured that I will always support local pubs with deeds as well as words."

Wessex FM has tried contacting Mr Drax but so far he has been unavailable to comment.

Shares in the two biggest pub chain companies, Enterprise Inns and Punch Taverns, both fell steadily after the vote.

Critics said this leaves the majority of publicans earning less than the minimum wage.

But the Federation of Small Businesses said it was "a historic day for tied publicans" and would lead to a more open and competitive marketplace.

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