I congratulate my hon. Friend Selaine Saxby on securing this debate and thank her for doing so.
The past 12 months have made us all appreciate things that we took for granted, and many of us are now desperate to get back to our hospitality sector. Whether it is our local pub or coffee shop or the favourite meal that we always order at the same restaurant, there can be no doubt that we have all missed such simple pleasures.
Our hospitality sector has been amazing over the past 12 months. As restrictions changed and came and went, businesses jumped through hoops to keep their staff safe and to welcome customers safely. They should be highly commended for that effort. Many have adapted their services, morphing into takeaway food outlets or offering home deliveries of afternoon teas or Sunday roasts. Even though times were bad for them, many still found time to help others, and I want to make special mention of the landlord of the Ashmore Inn, Kevin Ward, who set up a food bank in Ashmore Park. When I visited the Ashmore Inn, I was struck by Kevin’s typical Black Country spirit of helping other people and of community. The sense of community we have in our pubs in Wolverhampton and in the wider Black Country is something very special. In my maiden speech, I spoke of an epidemic of loneliness as our society changed and this is one reason I cherish our pubs, as lifelong friendships flourish. I talk to so many older people who have drunk in the same pub with the same group of friends for decades.
Although on occasion I did take issue in this place with the level of support to our wet-led pubs, I would like to thank the Government for the wide range of schemes to support our hospitality industry—there are too many to list. I also want to welcome the welcome back fund. Wolverhampton has secured £230,000 to get high streets and our city centre ready for summer and really help our hospitality industry to recover. I gently ask, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon did, that dialogue continues with industry bodies such as UKHospitality, CAMRA—the Campaign for Real Ale—the Society of Independent Brewers and the BFBi, based in my constituency, so that we can continue to look for any more help that might be needed, whether through extensions to VAT cuts, measures on business rates or other means. I have written to the Chancellor asking him to consider a cut in duty for beer served in pubs. That could be entirely funded by adding a small cost to beer purchased in supermarkets.
Despite the awful time for hospitality, I am an optimist. With the vaccination programme rolling out and summer coming, I look forward to getting back to one of the many fantastic restaurants, cafés and pubs in Wolverhampton.