Covid-19: Hospitality Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:05 pm on 24th March 2021.

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Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Labour, Pontypridd 6:05 pm, 24th March 2021

It is clear from contributions from Members across the House that the hospitality industry across the country really is on its knees. In my own constituency of Pontypridd, we have some fantastic hospitality venues and businesses. There is not time to name them all, but I want to give a shout-out to a few, including Alfred’s and the Bunch of Grapes in Pontypridd, the Windsor in Pontyclun, the Rhondda Bowl in Tonyrefail, the brilliant and delicious Glamorgan Brewery in Llantrisant and, of course, our Savoy Theatre and the Muni Arts Centre. Those are just a few examples of the venues and business that have been hugely impacted over the last year and, sadly, a year on, we can all see for ourselves that our hotels, pubs, restaurants and entertainment venues across the country are struggling.

Only yesterday I had the privilege of visiting the Miskin Manor Hotel, a spectacular wedding venue in my constituency, to plant a tree as part of its memorial to the lives lost at the hands of coronavirus. The team at Miskin Manor have, like so many others, relied on the furlough scheme, and they have some fantastic plans to kick-start trade again when lockdown restrictions ease here in Wales, yet for so many others, the lack of future planning from this Government’s financial support packages has caused long-term damage that may be impossible for businesses to recover from.

The Chancellor has repeatedly taken a stop-start approach to economic support, which has ultimately failed the hospitality industry. These last-minute actions have harmed the high street and caused businesses and workers distress at their inability to plan for the future. It cannot and should not be this way. The sad reality is that it could have been different if the UK Government had simply made a more serious response to coronavirus early on, and while hindsight is of course a wonderful thing, I cannot help but be extremely frustrated at the sheer lack of planning. It is clear that the support schemes that were put in place for an expected three-month crisis are now no longer fit for purpose 12 to 18 months on.

The Government claim that they are committed to levelling up and that they want to boost the economy and protect jobs. Well, it is going to take a lot more than soundbites from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to fix the situation in Pontypridd, let alone in the rest of the country. The reality is that they have utterly failed a generation, and I fear that our young people will sadly be paying the price of the Government’s mistakes for many years to come. There needs to be an acknowledgement that businesses in the hospitality sector, which clearly employ young people, have an extremely difficult few months ahead as the economy reopens.

In the Budget, the Government had the opportunity to bring forward a plan to help businesses through the crisis and beyond, including debt restructuring and a jobs guarantee for the young, yet once again we saw little in the way of long-term future planning. If the Government are serious about businesses, they must include a commitment to supporting our high streets too. In Wales, I am proud that the Welsh Labour Government have understood the importance of supporting businesses big and small, right from the beginning. It is vital that the UK Government understand that the devastation caused by the pandemic is not going anywhere, and that businesses in the hospitality sector will need ongoing support, likely for many years to come. I urge the Minister to take these cries for help seriously and to work with colleagues across Government Departments to ensure that forward planning for future generations is consistently covered in the Government’s ongoing response to the pandemic.