I congratulate my hon. Friend Selaine Saxby on securing this important debate. I am a Devonian born and bred. When I think about my home county, I think about the breath-taking views on the south-west coast path. I think of the vast swathes of the Jurassic coast, rolling countryside, Georgian seaside towns and beautiful villages stretching from Sidmouth to Exmouth. But not just the views make me smile. The warm welcome that visitors receive in our towns and villages—in the cafés, pubs, restaurants and hotels—also makes me smile.
The hospitality industry is the lifeblood of East Devon’s towns and villages, which I am incredibly proud to represent. There is no doubt that, without the financial support the Government have provided, many of the places that residents and visitors enjoy simply would not be around to reopen their doors. That financial support kept staff on the books, helped pay the rent and paused other payments and bills. I am pleased that the Government will inject extra cash into the industry with restart grants, as well as extending cuts to VAT and business rates. We must continue to recognise how vital the hospitality industry is and consider further steps to help the sector.
Everyone who works in the industry is an ambassador for both my county and our country. Straight after the Budget, I joined a call with hotel owners in Sidmouth, who welcomed the measures that the Chancellor announced. However, recruitment and retention remain a challenge. It is quite right that the Government want businesses to invest in their domestic workforce—to train them up and improve local skills—but it is also about getting across the message that hospitality is a skilled and rewarding career.
Working in hospitality involves a positive attitude and a strong work ethic. Many locally who started out in hospitality by taking a seasonal job to earn some extra money have risen to become integral parts of the management teams in their venues, or have started new ventures with experience that they gained. I will continue to work on this issue with businesses in East Devon and to look at ways the Government can ensure that the new, fairer immigration system works for them.
I have lost count of the number of times that I have raised the need for continued financial support for the hospitality industry with Ministers and on the Floor of the House. I am glad they heard the calls and responded in the Budget. People should have every confidence that they can go back into cafés, pubs, restaurants and hotels when they reopen, whether to meet friends and family or to have a quiet drink after what has been an exceptionally difficult year for us all. I am sure everyone will be welcomed safely back to East Devon.