My Lords, I support the Government in trying, in very difficult circumstances, to strike a balance between public health and the economy.
In my allotted two minutes, I will focus on businesses that operate as both restaurants and wedding venues, loosely termed. Many do not conduct the wedding ceremony on their premises; they simply provide a space for a meal to be served. This service is an essential part of the viability of many of these businesses, often subsidising other aspects of the business. Provided that these business can stop the mingling, singing and dancing that my noble friend referred to—and many of the businesses I have spoken to have assured me that they can—what is stopping the Government allowing such meals to take place? These premises host large numbers of people for meals in a safe and socially distanced way on a daily basis as part of the restaurant service, so why can they not do so for a specific purpose? Surely our response should be based on safety, science and, as my noble friend Lord Lilley put it so powerfully, simple common sense.
Our approach appears to lack a sophisticated understanding of the diverse hospitality industry and how it operates. I therefore urge my noble friend to ask the Government to think again regarding numbers at socially distanced, seated wedding meals to ensure that we stop many struggling businesses in the hospitality sector simply closing permanently.