The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:20 pm on 8th July 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Nickie Aiken Nickie Aiken Conservative, Cities of London and Westminster 5:20 pm, 8th July 2020

I begin by reiterating my support for the measures that the Government and the Treasury, in particular, have taken in response to this crisis, and none more so than today, with the financial statement. I know that the Chancellor and his ministerial team and officials have worked tirelessly and undertaken heroic efforts to protect millions of jobs.

Thousands of my constituents have benefited from the support available, whether that is residents supported by the job retention scheme or the self-employed income support scheme. A number of my constituents who are self-employed have written to me asking for more help—particularly those who became self-employed in the last financial year—but businesses have also benefited from the grants, loans and relief that have been made available. I particularly welcomed in my constituency this week the amazing announcement of £1.5 billion for the arts. The west end theatres located in the Cities of London and Westminster and the national iconic venues, such as the Royal Albert Hall, the Royal Opera House and the Barbican Centre, will all now benefit, I believe for the whole nation.

The support offered to the theatres is absolutely necessary, but I am sure that Ministers are aware that the local economy also suffers with the theatres being closed. For every £1 spent in theatres, another £5 is spent in the local economy. The fact that theatres remain closed is a continuing issue for the hospitality sector, and the combination of a lack of office workers and a lack of tourism and international visitors in central London means that many businesses are sadly remaining closed. I am acutely aware of the issues in central London. While UKHospitality suggests that nationally, 45% of restaurants and 53% of bars have opened, in central London only 23% of restaurants, 35% of bars and 10% of cafés have done so. Hotels are also particularly bearing the brunt at the moment, with only about 10% to 15% occupancy rates in hotels, and that is a real issue.

I hope that we remain clear that retail, bars, restaurants and hotels are facing issues in both supply and demand, and I therefore warmly welcome the Chancellor’s announcement today on cutting VAT for the hospitality and tourism sectors from 20% to 5%, which is something that I know that UKHospitality and the W1 hotels—the major hotels in my constituency—will particularly welcome. I look forward to taking part in the “eat out to help out” scheme in August—an excellent, unique idea to help restaurants, and I say thank you to the Chancellor and his team for doing that.

Finally, I offer my constituency support for driving the economy back to its full strength. I will be working very closely with the City of London Corporation to demonstrate that London is seen as a resilient and environmentally and socially responsible financial centre for the future, no matter the developing economic situation and, indeed, our relationship with the EU. The City will host a green finance summit in November 2020, which I know the Minister is aware of. I welcome that initiative and hope that it will meet with the support of the House.

The support offered by this Government has been second to none. I hope that it will not end but continue to evolve as the situation becomes clearer, and I look forward to working with the Government to support residents and businesses in the Cities of London and Westminster.