Covid-19: Hospitality Industry

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:20 pm on 24th March 2021.

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Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport) 5:20 pm, 24th March 2021

There is nothing like a free advert in the House of Commons—whether I will get a free takeaway, I rather doubt; we shall see.

My constituency depends on the tourism industry, and the tourism industry depends on the hospitality industry. We have been in terror of any one of these businesses shutting down forever, because if that were to happen, it would impoverish the tourism product that we offer to visitors. The visitors would then say, “It’s not so much fun coming,” and they will not come, and we could end up in a downward spiral. Keeping these businesses going is utterly crucial.

I will conclude by mentioning another business, this time in the north of my constituency: Mackays Hotel in Wick. It is a great and famous old hotel, and it is owned by a man called Murray Lamont. He has been very wise in the way he has conducted himself. I would ring him up every so often during the pandemic to ask, “How’s it going, Murray?” He is a brave man; he would say, “We’re going to get through this.” I so admire the spirit of people like Graham Rooney and Murray Lamont.

Murray has four things that he wants me to mention in the Chamber. First, let us not shut off the reduced VAT rate too soon, because it is a life saver; I give thanks to the Government where it is due. Secondly, clarity on rules about reopening and travel would be invaluable. Where the Scottish Government are saying one thing and the UK Government are saying another—and sometimes we wonder whether it is done to deliberately contradict the UK Government—that is not helpful. Thirdly, a package for capital investment would be helpful. Finally, we need to get back into training, because too many people are leaving the profession, and the profession will be denuded if it cannot offer the standard of cooking, service and so on. Let us hope we get through this pandemic, which we surely will, and let us hope we have a vibrant hospitality business to hit the ground running when the time comes.