THE GOVERNMENT should take urgent action to support smaller pub landlords, bars currently closing at a rate of 26 a week across the UK, Torfaen Labour MP Paul Murphy told the House of Commons.

During a debate called by his party, he reiterated its call for a statutory code to rein in large pub chains, warning the longer legislation is delayed, the more damage is done.

Large chains of pub companies are accused of charging rental prices well above market value and making licensees pay over the odds for their alcoholic products.

A code would include a free-of-tie option, open market rent reviews and an independent pubs adjudicator which it’s argued would give landlords the choice to go free-of-tie, enabling them to operate in a more competitive market. A government consultation into a statutory code of practice finished seven months ago, and Mr Murphy said its response is now four months overdue.

Business secretary Vince Cable said the government hadn’t had time to consider the findings, a claim Mr Murphy greeted with disbelief, suggesting instead the failure to act was due to disagreements within the Government. He also questioned if cabinet figures may be blocking legislation ensuring a fair deal for publicans.

After the debate, he said: “Pubs play an important role in our community and make a vital contribution to the local economy.

“One year ago this government promised to take action to support small landlords, but we’re still waiting.”