Covid-19: Hospitality Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:59 pm on 24th March 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Emma Hardy Emma Hardy Shadow Minister (Education) 5:59 pm, 24th March 2021

It has been an incredibly tough year for hospitality. Many businesses have faced the biggest economic decline of all the sectors in the economy, and workers have faced problems with being furloughed, reduced hours and job losses. I give credit to Hull City Council for the support that it has given to more than 5,000 local businesses, despite missing out on the Government’s high street fund, which only goes to prove that if people want help and support, it is Labour they need to turn to.

The situation was tough before the pandemic, but it has got worse, although we have had some cultural renewal and some good news. For example, the development of Humber St, the award-winning Deep and the maritime history project are all bringing people into the city centre to spend their money, and I do hope that this desire to staycation will continue that. I am particularly delighted that we have been able to save the Polar Bear and the Welly, which are two fantastic live music venues in my constituency.

The move online has only been accelerated by the pandemic, and there are a number of actions I would really like the Government to take. It is simply not fair that five US tech firms have not paid more than £1.3 billion in lost corporation tax, while at the same time our high streets are still desperately waiting for the business rates revaluation that the Government promised such a long time ago. If we want to give businesses the chance to recover and get footfall back in the city centre and people spending money, we need to look at extending support past June, because they simply will not be immediately viable.

We need to address the cash crisis. The rates and the rent make up over 30% of hospitality’s expenses, and 53% of accommodation and food businesses have said that they have less than three months of cash reserves left, which is incredibly concerning. I hope that the Government will put aside party politics and look seriously at Labour’s plan for debt recovery, and support businesses having to pay back the coronavirus business interruption loans or the bounce back loans only when they actually start to make money and can afford to do so. Again, they should look at our plans for a high street recovery fund, and reuse the money the supermarkets have not needed, since they have made so much during the pandemic, and give it to the small businesses that need the support. Of course, I always think that more can be done to support our pubs, because we will all need a drink after this pandemic.

I would also like to ask the Minister to look at the pledges from Unite the union, but because of time, I will instead write to the Minister and outline those, but they include allowing workers to keep all their tips and action against sexual harassment at work. I want to conclude by saying to the Minister, quite simply: he needs to put money back in people’s pockets; if they do not have money, none of this counts because they will not be able to spend anything.