Covid-19: Hospitality Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:13 pm on 24th March 2021.

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Photo of Tim Loughton Tim Loughton Conservative, East Worthing and Shoreham 6:13 pm, 24th March 2021

There is no need to dream of going to Ayrshire, Madam Deputy Speaker; you know you are welcome to prop up the outside bars and pubs of Worthing and Shoreham at any time, as I know you like doing so much.

It is very difficult in three minutes to comment on what, as my hon. Friend Selaine Saxby said—I congratulate her on securing this debate—is such a big industry. It is a big industry, a very large revenue earner, a large taxpayer and a large employer. The fact that, in 2020, total revenues fell by some 54%, with potentially 600,000 jobs at stake, is very worrying. Undoubtedly, the many generous measures from the Chancellor have been a lifeline for many businesses and jobs, enabling them to survive the lockdown and hopefully to open up shortly. However, coastal communities such as mine are disproportionately reliant on the hospitality industry, and those businesses disproportionately employ young people, so there is a double whammy for already deprived coastal community areas and the young people in them.

Of course, this is not just about hospitality venues. There has been a significant impact on the suppliers and events service industries, as many hon. Members have said. I am talking about everything from the people making the pies and sausage rolls for football matches, who do not have a premises that they may have been able to get various grants for, to the wedding dressmakers—why on earth are we still limiting wedding receptions outside to 15 people, which is ridiculous?—to DJs, lighting suppliers and the kennels and catteries who do not have any customers because they are all stuck at home with their pets. It is vital that we do not delay any further. The industry needs certainty. The stop-start closures that many people have mentioned have been highly damaging. We have heard that 60% of pubs may not reopen on 12 April, and it is really frustrating that pubs cannot not be open, even outside, even with all the social-distancing measures that they have put in place, for the Easter bank holiday weekend.

Hotels have been particularly hard hit. Many of them cannot comply as easily with the regulation as self-catering and Airbnb accommodation. Many restaurants and pubs have not been able to benefit from carrying on their takeaway trade, and historic venues have ongoing maintenance costs for which they need to raise money. Although we will benefit from domestic tourism this year because of travel restraints, we are not going to benefit properly from unvaccinated Europeans coming in, which is a very lucrative part of the tourism industry.

We need to extend some of the generous measures. We need the 5% VAT rate to become permanent. The 20% rate does not sit easily with continental hospitality industries. We need to look again at the rate multiplier on business rates—the Chancellor needs to look at adjusting it downwards. Home drinking has brought in an £800 million windfall. The Chancellor has the leeway and capacity to be even more generous to the hospitality industry through this really important period. I hope he is listening—cheers to that, Madam Deputy Speaker.