Live Events and Weddings: Covid-19 Support — [James Gray in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 6:37 pm on 9th November 2020.

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Photo of Karen Bradley Karen Bradley Chair, Procedure Committee, Chair, Procedure Committee 6:37 pm, 9th November 2020

I will remember that when we meet on Wednesday.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Elliot Colburn for his excellent opening speech and for setting the scene so well. Given that I have only four minutes, I will focus on just one issue: wedding venues. Like many hon. Members, I have been contacted by so many people who have been affected—couples whose big day has not happened or has been seriously scaled down, and the businesses that supply wedding venues.

I want to focus on two unique venues in my constituency: Heaton House Farm and The Ashes. Heaton House Farm is in Rushton Spencer, and The Ashes in is Endon—both are in Staffordshire Moorlands. They are bespoke wedding venues; they do not do anything else. They offer large events and are licensed venues. They have the most incredible scenery. If you have been lucky enough to sit in the hairdresser’s and read Hello! or OK! magazines, Mr Gray, you will have seen the venues, because they host the celebrity weddings that feature in these great, august publications. However, they simply have no business at all at the moment—they have nothing. As Justin Madders said, they could not benefit from “eat out to help out”, because they do not offer food outside weddings and large events. They cannot benefit from the VAT reduction, because they have no turnover—they are not making any money at the moment.

The Heaton House Farm team have taken over running a community pub in Rushton Spencer, The Royal Oak, just to find somewhere to employ their staff. Without that, they will lose their staff. They are not making a single penny on that; they are doing it so that they can keep their staff and to make sure that when they can get back to having weddings, they can do so in the best way they possibly can. They do not benefit from many of the grants because their rateable values are too high—they simply need to be able to get back to holding weddings. As my right hon. Friend Esther McVey said, they can hold a wedding service, but they could not sit the guests until the regulations changed to allow 15, and yet those guests could go to the local pub and up to 60 of them could sit, socially distanced, in tables of six. That cannot be right. We have to find a way through this. I invite the Minister to meet my constituents from Heaton House Farm and The Ashes to discuss the issue to see what support the Government can find to help those incredibly special places.