Covid-19: Hospitality Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:32 pm on 24th March 2021.

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Photo of Charlotte Nichols Charlotte Nichols Labour, Warrington North 6:32 pm, 24th March 2021

I have now spoken in a number of debates as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on pubs to highlight the existential threat to the trade from the events of the past year and to ask for clearer support for the sector. It is a shame that here I am again, repeating calls that have so far gone unanswered. For those of us who do not want to hear the last orders’ bell tolling for pubs in every single one of our constituencies, the Government must recognise what more needs to be done to sustain them until custom can properly return.

I welcomed the grants made available, including in the Budget, but many in the sector have been saying that they are insufficient. The British Institute of Innkeeping stated that

“these grants will not even cover the furlough contributions that will be needed to safeguard their teams until May, let alone June.”

The business rates holiday and VAT cut extension were also welcome, but do not make up for the losses that have accrued and will continue to accrue until pubs are able to open fully. Wet-led pubs, in particular, will continue to suffer. I am glad that they no longer need to comply with the farce of the Scotch egg test—may I say that its removal shows that it was a hollow necessity all along?—but they will not benefit from the VAT cut, which is restricted to food, soft drinks and accommodation. These problems are made even worse for pubs without beer gardens or outside space, which will still be on severely restricted capacity until at least 21 June.

Alongside our pubs, the brewers that supply them need support too. About 80% of the beer made by small producers, including the Coach House Brewing Company and Twisted Wheel Brew Company in Warrington North, and the 4Ts Brewery just over the Mersey from us, is sold in pubs. The devastating loss of trade, with pubs closed, 200 million fewer pints of craft beer brewed in comparison with 2019, and 6 million pints of beer poured down the drain this year, represents 10 years of lost growth for the sector. They desperately need compensation and support to recover.

Pubs and their suppliers deserve the support they need until they can reopen properly—a day to which we are all looking forward very much. I know that I am not alone in longing for the days of a pint or five in my local with friends and making new friends in the smoking area. As our freedom to enjoy those days comes back, we need to ensure that the sector is there in which to be able to enjoy that freedom.