We’re definitely getting better at opposition, and at using parliament to win Labour change.
Today’s Labour debate calling for regulation to make sure pub companies deal fairly with their tenant managers and meet the standards set out in their own code of practice forced Vince Cable to rush out a commitment to legislate late yesterday afternoon.
Another win for Chuka Umunna’s team, especially for shadow pubs minister Toby Perkins who led the debate.
There are still some flaws in the regulation plans but it should put a stop to publicans being unable to make even the busiest pubs profitable because they are tied to restrictive unfair company contracts. Half of tied pub managers earn less than £15,000 a year, and 90 per cent believe the arrangement means they can’t make a fair profit.
The lessons for effective Labour opposition through parliament are also useful.
First, a well-judged and well-timed motion for debate which most Lib Dems and many Tories would have found hard to oppose.
Second, clear Labour policy, in this case mapped out before the election in the 12-point plan which I produced as pubs minister when Gordon Brown asked me to bang departmental heads together.
Third, good Labour leadership of the all-party BIS select committee which strengthened cross-party support for action and skewered Cable into following Labour.
And fourth, common cause with a wide range of campaigners from Camera to Unite’s Licensees section to individual Lib Dem MPs like Greg Mulholland who chairs the all-party Save the Pub group in parliament.
The result is a practical, popular and progressive policy change, with Government stepping in to regulate the worst of the predatory pub companies whose recidivism entirely undermined their case for voluntary self-regulation.
So tonight let’s raise a glass – in the pub – to our shadow pubs minister and good Labour opposition.
John Healey is MP for Wentworth and Dearne. He tweets @JohnHealey_MP
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