We are all aware that the cultural and entertainment sector has been hit hard during the pandemic due to the prolonged time that the sector has been restricted. Indeed, over the last few months, I have received many representations from theatres, nightclubs, bingo halls, casinos, heritage rail and many more businesses and individuals in my constituency that are very concerned about their ability to survive the pandemic.
While of course I understand the inherent risks that large gatherings bring, given that we are now seeing a fall in the number of people in hospital with covid-19, thanks in huge part to the fantastic work of the Government and the NHS in delivering over 20 million vaccinations across the UK, as well as one of the biggest testing systems in the world, we now need to begin opening up again.
I therefore welcome the announcement of the road map out of lockdown last week, which will give businesses the reassurances needed to begin planning their reopening. However, if we are to support them in that, we need to help build public confidence in the road map so that people will actually start booking tickets for events and visits. I would be interested to hear from the Minister how the Government plan to do that over the next few months. In my view, one such way would be by setting out as soon as possible what enhanced testing regimes and other safety measures will be introduced for events with large crowds. To this end, I would also be interested to hear from the Minister the Government’s expected timeframe for the events research programme, and specifically when it expects to report on its findings.
Finally, I would like to mention the tourism and heritage sectors. In the Loughborough constituency, we have a wealth of tourist and heritage sites, including Great Central Railway, the Carillon tower museum, Charnwood Museum, the Old Rectory Museum, the only operational bell foundry in the UK, the Peter Le Marchant Trust and the ancient Outwoods woodland, to name a few. They are all fantastic places to visit.
As restrictions are lifted, we must seize the opportunity to promote domestic tourism to boost our local economies, support businesses and create much-needed jobs. This is an area in which I am very keen to do more work on over the coming months, particularly in the run-up to English Tourism Week. I would be interested to hear what plans the Government have to support domestic tourism. The Government have, of course, already provided a large package of support to heritage sites in Loughborough, and I thank them very much for that help. We now need to work to ensure that those organisations are able to start up again and thrive—employing people, contributing to our local communities and, ultimately, paying their taxes. They need a hand up, not a handout, and we need confidence in the sector.