First, I thank the care home staff and NHS staff in my constituency, particularly the medical staff at Darent Valley Hospital and Medway Maritime Hospital, who I know have their work cut out for them at the moment.
I would like to again bang the drum for the hospitality industry. If we believe that the main drivers of infection are hospital and care home settings, schools and households mixing within family homes, should we not be doing everything we can to avoid such household mixing? Regrettably, I firmly believe that many people in this country, unable to go into bars and restaurants, are mixing in unsuitable conditions in other people’s homes. We have seen since the end of the first lockdown the extraordinary and incredibly expensive efforts of the hospitality industry to make preparations to minimise the risks to their staff and customers and to stay afloat as businesses. When I look at establishments owned by friends of mine such as the Iron Pier brewery in Northfleet, the Griffin Inn in Fletching or TJ’s pub in Gravesend, I see that the driving principle of customer service for them since the first lockdown is the safety of their customers and their staff.
We have seen no evidence at all to confirm that people are more at risk in pubs than in private homes or more at risk congregating in well-run hospitality establishments. If we are knowingly going to crash the businesses and the life’s work of so many entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry, which we will be doing by knowingly restricting their ability to trade in the run-up to Christmas, when trading this month might actually save many of them, it would be nice if we could at least provide some evidence to support that.