Business and Planning Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:21 pm on 29th June 2020.

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Photo of Alok Sharma Alok Sharma The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy 5:21 pm, 29th June 2020

My right hon. Friend, who has previously served as Business Secretary with great distinction, raises a number of important points. On insolvency, he will know that with the support of both Houses, we passed the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020, which came into effect on 25 June. When it comes to providing support to businesses, I think the best thing we can possibly do is to open them up, and I know that that is a sentiment that he will appreciate as a former Business Secretary. I would love to be able to have the whole economy operating and opening up, but we all understand why we are taking a phased and cautious approach: we want to continue to meet our five tests, and we want to ensure that the R value stays below one. In the tourism sector and the theatre sector, which he mentioned, ministerial colleagues are working closely on these issues.

I turn first to the temporary measures in the Bill to step up the recovery of our hospitality sector. Our 127,000 pubs, restaurants and cafés, which employ around 2 million people, are the lifeblood of our high streets and town centres. Social distancing guidelines significantly affect their capacity to accommodate customers, and food and beverage service activity has fallen by nearly 90% in the last quarter. The Bill introduces a temporary fast-track process for pubs, cafés and restaurants to obtain local council permission to place tables and chairs on the pavement outside their premises.