Covid-19: Cultural and Entertainment Sectors

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:17 pm on 2nd March 2021.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon 5:17 pm, 2nd March 2021

It is a pleasure to follow my fellow London MP, John McDonnell, and to welcome Jo Stevens back to her place.

At the outset of these remarks, I want to say how much I welcome and commend the Government’s support for entertainment. Throughout this pandemic, I have used these debates and questions to raise issues on behalf of the hospitality, events and entertainment industry in Wimbledon. As many know, we have the best theatre outside the west end, the New Wimbledon Theatre. We have the internationally renowned children’s theatre, the Polka, a huge entertainment industry featuring the book fest and the music fest, and a large number of events and exhibition companies. I want to concentrate my short contribution on the three issues that will help them to survive and thrive.

While there has been extensive support, many of the people who work in entertainment, events, hospitality and supply chains in Wimbledon are self-employed freelancers. These are the people who will ensure that the creative industries can reopen and thrive, but most of them have not qualified for either furlough or business grant support. Many who became self-employed in 2019 do not qualify for the self-employed income support scheme. So with covid restrictions remaining in place for longer than we all would have liked and a recognition that it will take some time after 21 June for the events industry to fully recover, can I say that, a year into the pandemic, the only just and fair policy would be to forward the qualifying date for the self-employed income scheme by a year? I hope that we will hear that from the Minister or the Chancellor in the next couple of days.

The Minister for Digital and Culture was right to say in her opening remarks at the Dispatch Box that there is a cautious approach to relaxation based on data, not dates, but a number of issues still remain for the exhibition and events industry. Last year, pilots were conducted on how these events and exhibitions could be conducted in a covid-safe way. We have not yet heard whether those pilots will feed into the road map. Can my hon. Friend assure us about that? Post 12 April, theatres can have audiences above the 30 limit through steps 4 and 5, but there is nothing yet for meetings and exhibitions. I agree with my right hon. Friend Theresa Villiers on the insurance guarantee scheme. Finally, large events will recover only if there is some certainty over the unlocking of global travel. That remains uncertain and the Government need to give some clarity as to when or if quarantine measures will be reviewed.