Support for People and Businesses in Wales: Covid-19 — [Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:45 pm on 21st October 2020.

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Photo of Fay Jones Fay Jones Conservative, Brecon and Radnorshire 2:45 pm, 21st October 2020

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point, but we do not know what will happen after 9 November, as I will address in my speech.

It is clear to me that businesses do not want to be kept on life support through Government grants and loans. They want to be open and busy, serving customers and playing an important role in our communities. Throughout coronavirus, the tourism and hospitality sectors in Brecon and Radnorshire have reacted admirably and have done everything they can to stay open, while ensuring that their customers are safe.

I was pleased to visit Cantref activity centre in Brecon in the summer, which has worked incredibly hard to implement social-distancing measures and limit capacity, as have Dan yr Ogof caves, a 60-year-old underground caving attraction in Abercrave. They have all now been told by the Welsh Government that that work was for nothing and that they are to lose their half-term revenue—the only glimmer of hope in an otherwise dreadful year.

The lockdown is being imposed, and we will all have to comply, businesses included. I welcome that the Welsh Government have made £300 million available, but I hope that that can be targeted at businesses in the tourism and hospitality sectors, which are now facing their third winter of 2020. I will play my part by urging the Chancellor and the Treasury to maintain the 5% VAT rate, but I urge the Welsh Government to commit to scrapping business rates for tourism and hospitality businesses for another year. Above all, in answer to the point made by Stephen Kinnock, the Welsh Government need to explain what happens next. It is vital that we avoid an endless cycle of rolling lockdowns, as trailed by Rachel Reeves on Sunday morning.

Before I conclude, I want to highlight the plight of the events sector, which is another important employer in my constituency. The Royal Welsh show is the largest agricultural show in Europe. Each year, it welcomes a quarter of a million visitors to Llanelwedd, just outside Builth Wells. It creates £45 million for the UK economy and, more than that, it is a rich seam in our cultural fabric. For many, it is the highlight of the year—an annual holiday and a chance to catch up with friends right across the agricultural sector. Just before the Royal Welsh show was cancelled for 2020, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport provided the Welsh Government with £59 million to support cultural activities in Wales hit by the pandemic. I find it curious that only £53 million of that money has been made available so far. The Royal Welsh show is one of the biggest cultural events in Wales. It is on a par with the Urdd eisteddfod, which received £3.1 million in support from the Welsh Government. The Royal Welsh show has received next to nothing in comparison. I implore the Welsh Government to consider the rural economy and find some extra funding for the show, which faces an uncertain future.

Support for businesses comes in many forms, not just lifeline funding. Businesses need to know what comes next. We in Wales know that half-term, Halloween and bonfire night are all cancelled. Valuable chances to recover are gone. Where do we go from here? How do we fight the virus on an economic and a public health front after 9 November? The Welsh Government need to come forward with a plan urgently.