Memorandum submitted by George Scott
I am a pub landlord, having now leased the Eastcote
Arms for nearly 10 years from Punch Taverns.
Reasonably soon after embarking on this venture I
realised that the contract I had signed in good faith was not
what it was portrayed to be (ranging from failing to provide full
FMT figures [thereby concealing misrepresentation] to severe service-level
failures on a tied supply contract thus hugely negatively impacting
On 17 November my case (a defence and counter-claim)
was struck out of Court on application by Punch at Northampton
County Court. This was followed by a recently added application
for summary judgement for possession, which was awarded.
There are many serious issues, which Punch at
all levels has consistently failed to address over a long period
of time. (I would have got rid of the business long ago were it
not for the fact that is was worthless, therefore "un-assignable").
I have therefore solidly stuck to the restitutionary tactic of
restoring me to a position where I would have been were it not
for Punch's activitiesfirstly within the company; ultimately
using legal process which is where we are today.
Over the years Punch have used spurious and
diversionary tactics to avoid confronting the main issues. I am
particularly concerned and outraged at the events in Court last
When it was alleged in Court to Punch
that my reliance on the code of practice (Retailers' Charter),
and Punch's repeated assertions that they would adhere to (or
even undertake) the process; the response briefed by Punch via
their instructing solicitors was that there was no need or legal
obligation for them to adhere to such a document/process;
And that an illegal (under duress) rent
review was irrelevant to my case financially, as there would only
ever be an upwards only rent review anyway.
Prior to this in July this year, when senior
Punch representatives became aware of their repeated refusal to
adhere to their code of practice (Retailers' Charter), again rather
than confront and try to resolve the matters, they attempted to
evict me from the site alleging that I was a trespasser.
This came after nine years!
They used the technicality that the wrong
name (not person!) was on the lease.
They were previously aware of this and
accepted the reasons.
The fact of the matter is that when matters
started to look uncomfortable for them they used any tactic possible
to silence me. Fortunately I managed to overturn the July decision.
Again, before this in turn, in January this
year, I wrote to Giles Thorley informing him that there was a
long-standing rent (amongst other matters) dispute and that I
was going to make one more attempt at resolving the situation.
However, the business could not run in its current format, so
I would trade on as if Punch were not landlords if nothing were
to be resolved. As a result:
A failed rent review partially took place
("we can't help you, you'll just have to go to the wall").
A senior representative from Punch met
with me and again refused to confront the issues but offered to
sell me the site.
I formed a syndicate and paid for a valuation.
Punch pretended to have obtained a recent
valuation and stated that a valuer had visited the site. I know
this not to be the case.
Negotiations suddenly and inexplicably
foundereda parting shot was: "we have possession".
Upon further enquiry to a director of
the company I was informed that they thought the site had closed,
as on one Friday afternoon there was no reply from the pub or
my mobile phone and an Area/Ops Manager had seen the site was
closed at that time. This was completely untrue as there were
two staff, a handful of customers and myself present at all times
during the alleged time span.
This is further evidence of lies and "bully-boy"
tactics and how the Courts cannot continue to hold that lessees
and pubcos are equal business partners.
My point to you, Mr Luff, is that the pubcos
have undertaken at the 2004 TISC and the 2009 BEC hearings
to adhere to a code of practice and not implement upwards only
rent reviews as part of a general undertaking to act transparently
and fairly. This has also been very recently stated, and more
assurances given, at various trade meetings and mediation processes;
and therefore widely reported in the press and trade press.
It is surely appalling that Punch would so recently
state in open Court (and therefore as a matter of public record)
that there is no need for them to adhere to such principles and
undertakings given to so many different organisations. I have
requested a transcript of the hearing.
I firmly believe that this is another example
of the inaccuracy of the recent OFT findings and that surely these
matters should be referred to the Competition Commission. I am
therefore asking you to consider this matter in the context of
your Committee's most recent requests for evidence. Obviously
any previous deadline cannot be applicable here due to the recent
nature of this development. I have tried to be brief in outlining
the whole matter. There is much more which I can say which completely
belies this company's spin to the public.
26 November 2009