Covid-19: Hospitality Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:46 pm on 24th March 2021.

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Photo of Mary Robinson Mary Robinson Conservative, Cheadle 5:46 pm, 24th March 2021

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and welcome to Cheadle.

I am glad to thank my hon. Friend Selaine Saxby and Ruth Cadbury for securing this debate and giving us the opportunity to reflect on the difficulties that hospitality has faced during the pandemic. Those difficulties have been particularly hard-felt by businesses in areas such as Greater Manchester, which were placed under local restrictions and in higher tiers during the autumn, and have suffered for longer. The Government’s unprecedented support has certainly been welcomed, with the bounce back loan scheme, the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme and the furlough scheme, which have been lifelines for many; but we must now look forward and ensure that hospitality recovers and thrives as we emerge from the pandemic.

The wedding sector in particular has faced—and still faces—unique challenges, and the end remains some way off. While weddings in non-exceptional circumstances will be allowed from Monday, only six people including the couple will be able to attend, and outdoor receptions with more than 30 guests and any indoor receptions must wait until at least 21 June. Even sporting events and concerts could get a head-start on them.

Couples have understandably been reluctant to confirm wedding dates, fearing that the 21 June date might get delayed, leading some wedding businesses to say that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. All this is causing a backlog of weddings, and a demand that will need to be accommodated. For wedding venues it is not just about getting back to normal; it is about going faster than normal, so that couples do not have to wait years for their big day.

One possible solution I would like to put forward is for more early weekday weddings. We know that Mondays to Wednesdays are traditionally less popular days to tie the knot, so, just like with the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, could the Government consider support to encourage early weekday weddings?

It is vital that we help this unique part of the hospitality sector recover from the pandemic because it serves such an important social purpose. Weddings bring together families and communities that for the last year have only been able to see each other and gather online; and the marriages they celebrate are the foundation of our families and our society. That is also why it is so important that when weddings come back, they come back for good. Large gatherings would be the first casualties of any resurgence in covid cases, so it is vital for wedding venues that we get this virus firmly under control. But I am confident that we will do so, and secure the future of our wedding venues. We must give hospitality and the wedding sector the support and certainty that it needs to restart and thrive.