Covid-19: Hospitality Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:10 pm on 24th March 2021.

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Photo of Abena Oppong-Asare Abena Oppong-Asare Shadow Exchequer Secretary (Treasury) 5:10 pm, 24th March 2021

Hospitality businesses in my constituency have had an enormously difficult year: not only have they been closed for many months, but when they have been allowed to open, they have faced a constantly changing set of rules and regulations. Many have not received the financial support they needed from the Government, and many are fearful for their future. I only have time to mention a couple of them, but their struggles are shared by countless other businesses across my constituency.

In December of last year, I visited the Abbey Arms in Abbey Wood as part of small business Saturday. Staff there told me about the challenges they faced and their uncertainty about the future. Of course, not long after that, all pubs were once again required to close. Other pub owners in my constituency have contacted me, including the owners of The Duchess of Kent in Erith and The Victoria in Belvedere. They need assurances from the Government that they will be treated fairly in the future and provided with support to reopen. The coming months will be particularly difficult for pubs and other venues with no outdoor space. Can the Minister set out what he will do to help these businesses? A great number of my constituents are rightly concerned about the future of their local pubs. Pubs are centres of our communities, and the Government urgently need to set out how they will help pubs not just to reopen, but to thrive, in the coming months and years.

The wedding and events sector has been extremely hard hit. Local family businesses have had to fight to survive over the past year, as nearly all their usual business has disappeared. Many businesses in the events sector have been repeatedly refused grant funding by Bexley council, which cites the Government’s tight criteria. These are businesses that have been allowed to fall through the cracks. The Government must look again at what more funding can be provided to help these businesses restart as restrictions allow. Of course, behind each of these businesses are people who have taken risks to start small businesses and contribute to our economy, our community, the people they employ and the supply chain of which they are part.

Hospitality workers are disproportionately likely to be women or from an ethnic minority background, and just this week, the Office for National Statistics published statistics showing that people under 25 account for 60% of the jobs lost since February 2020. The human toll of the pandemic has taken many forms, but we must not forget those who have lost their jobs or their businesses. We need action from the Government right now to ensure the hospitality industry is properly supported.