Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Support Measures

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:04 pm on 8th October 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Conservative, Tewkesbury 4:04 pm, 8th October 2020

I recognise a number of the points made by Steve McCabe. A number of speakers have referred to the need for help for musicians, freelancers and, indeed, theatres. I have the Roses theatre in my area, and I know that help is certainly needed. It is needed also in the pubs and restaurants sector. I know that goes a little wider than the Minister’s responsibility, but very many people are concerned about the 10 pm curfew and the effect that it is having on many businesses without any discernible good coming from it. I hope that it will be reviewed.

I will speak in the two minutes that I have remaining on behalf of horse racing. I have the pleasure of being the co-chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on racing and bloodstock, and I have Cheltenham racecourse, one of the greatest racecourses in the world, in my constituency. I have to stress that it is not a wealthy sport in the best of times. At the moment, it is suffering very acutely. Almost 50% of the revenue of racecourses comes from paying customers. Spectators go every day—it is a seven-day-a-week sport—and at the moment they have lost that revenue entirely.

There have been a couple of trials and pilots, which seemed to go very well, so it is really rather disappointing that the Government have stopped any further pilots or trials, especially given that racecourses are, of course, vast areas where social distancing would be very easy. There are also question marks about why hospitality suites cannot be open, when we can all go to a restaurant where there might be 50 or 100 people—again, suitably socially distanced. Why can that not be replicated at a sporting arena?

Other sports as well, not just horse racing, are having problems. Everybody understands why there are restrictions, but we have to look at the wider health implications of them. Sport is a very valuable asset to many people’s lives, both physically and mentally, and we really have to be careful that in containing the coronavirus disease, which we all want to do, we do not inadvertently cause other health problems. I make a plea to the Minister to think very carefully about reopening sporting venues, allowing, in a controlled way, crowds of a limited size to start attending again.