Covid-19: Hospitality Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:49 pm on 24th March 2021.

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Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington 5:49 pm, 24th March 2021

There is no need to apologise, Madam Deputy Speaker. Castle Eden Wood has come to the Commons. Thank you very much for calling me in this debate. I would also like to congratulate Selaine Saxby and my hon. Friend Ruth Cadbury on promoting and securing the debate.

First, I want to reference my union. I urge the Minister to look at Unite the union’s fair hospitality charter and 10-point plan. The plan has been devised by people who work in the industry and it has a lot of merit.

I believe the Government should show some contrition in respect of the hospitality sector. Pre-covid, the hospitality and tourism sector employed about 3 million people, or about 8% of the UK workforce. Delays to the extension of the job retention scheme and uncertainty about that extension have led to redundancies and the termination of casual contracts. Lay-offs have resulted in the sharpest impact on jobs of any sector, with as many as 650,000 job losses this year.

Pubs and clubs very dear to my heart in my constituency spent many thousands of pounds at the beginning of the pandemic to be covid-compliant. I found myself agreeing with many Members, including Sir Robert Syms. These establishments were inspected and monitored. They addressed any covid safety shortcomings immediately, because any that failed to comply were closed by the local authority. I want to place on record my thanks to those businesses, which could have traded and employed people, for doing all they could to cut covid transmissions.

In my view, those businesses have been let down by the Government. Three national lockdowns have crippled the hospitality industry. Economic output in the sector was down 90% in April 2020, compared to February the previous year. I support the proposed extension of the VAT reduction beyond September to allow the sector to recover. When businesses are fighting for survival, they need a Government who are going to support them.

I want to say a few words about the small brewing industry, which is under threat from Government policy. In my constituency, the Castle Eden brewery is not only suffering from lack of demand and a lack of grant support, its business has been put at risk by the Government’s proposed changes to small brewers relief. There is a simple solution: retain the relief at 5,000 hectolitres and stop the proposed cut to 2,100 hectolitres. It would be a scandal if small brewers survive covid only to be put out of business by ill-conceived reforms to the small brewers relief.