Pavement licences

Part of Business and Planning Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:15 pm on 29th June 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Tim Farron Tim Farron Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (North of England) (Northern Powerhouse), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Food and Rural Affairs) 8:15 pm, 29th June 2020

I shall speak to new clause 1, which I will not push to a Division because, for reasons mentioned by others—not least Meg Hillier—I accept the premise of the Bill. It is about boosting the economy and creating flexibility so that people can begin to make a living again within the confines of the important safety restrictions that there are. However, I am very much looking to the Minister and the Government to be very clear that they will accept the terms and the general approach of my amendment, which seeks Government support for the hospitality and tourism industry beyond the current date set, which is the end of October, when the Government’s financial support schemes currently run out.

We welcome this Bill, rushed though it is, and understanding the necessity of that. We also welcome the support that the Government have given to the sector and the economy more widely. Undoubtedly the furlough scheme, the grant schemes and, more recently, after a lot of lobbying by myself and plenty of others, the discretionary schemes delivered through local authorities have helped to save thousands of companies from bankruptcy and protected millions of jobs. I am grateful to the Government for that.

But tourism and hospitality is a special case. It is a special case because, for many parts of the country, and especially the Lake district, the Yorkshire dales and the rest of south Cumbria in my constituency, it operates on a seasonal basis—on a feast and famine basis. The reality is that covid-19 kicked in at the end of the winter, so there was famine and then the feast was cancelled. October—the month when the Government support for this industry and others will end—is the beginning of the next famine. We have to be very clear about this: if we say to the hospitality and tourism industry that, having missed out on its feast, it has to survive on its own two feet after October, we will simply be signing the death warrant of an entire industry right across this country. As I say, the industry operates on feast and famine. The other way of looking at this is that our hospitality and tourism industry across the UK will be expected to live on the basis of three consecutive winters, and there is no way it can absorb that—there is no way that many of these businesses will be able to survive it.

We are all working towards 4 July, and we are excited about it, with trepidation, but I want to remind the Minister and anybody else who needs reminding that, on 4 July, we will not see the widespread opening up of all the tourism and hospitality sector. In a survey of its members just a few days ago, Cumbria Tourism revealed that 69% of hospitality and tourism businesses in Cumbria will not be able to open fully on 4 July or any time soon after that, and 10% will not be able to open at all. The Government must not fall into a false sense of security that opening up to a degree on 4 July rescues the industry. Instead of famine, feast, famine it will be famine, small picnic, famine. We must not allow ourselves to assume that all is well within the industry just because of 4 July, welcome though that may be.

I remind the Minister that my constituency has had the single biggest increase in unemployment in the country since March—314%—and that 37% of my entire workforce is on furlough, which is the single biggest percentage outside London. The vast bulk of those people work in the tourism and hospitality sector. We hope that, having waited through the summer without a holiday, some of the people who would have travelled abroad might decide to holiday at home; I hope they do, and I support them in doing so. But we cannot assume that a rise in staycations will do anything to compensate for the losses that the industry has had over the summer months, which are of course not the Government’s fault, but we look to the Government to extend the support.

Alongside others, I have presented a petition calling for Government support beyond October through to spring 2021. It has the support of MPs across the House, including, I am pleased to say, my neighbours the hon. Members for Penrith and The Border (Dr Hudson) and for Barrow and Furness (Simon Fell). It also has the support of the heads and chief executives of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks, and many other destination organisations around the country such as Visit Cornwall, as well as my own, Cumbria Tourism.

This is a cross-party effort. New clause 1 is in my name, but it is supported by many Members. I hope that the Government will take notice and provide support for an industry that is the fourth biggest employer in the United Kingdom and the biggest employer in Cumbria. While I recognise that extending support for that industry from October through to spring will be expensive, I want the Minister to realise that not providing that support will also be hideously expensive, as tens of thousands of people become unemployed and we see the collapse of businesses that would otherwise be healthy and ready to start the fightback from the beginning of the new season in spring. I will not seek to divide the Committee on this matter, but I strongly urge the Minister to acknowledge what I am saying and to commit the Government to supporting a package of support for hospitality and tourism right the way through to spring 2021.