It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Gray. I commend my hon. Friend Elliot Colburn for securing this debate. I urge the Minister to look at the petitions in detail. Although I could speak at length about the issues facing live music in my own constituency at places such as the Anvil, and the many festivals I seem to go to when picking up my children, I will focus on weddings because I have been struck by the way that the restrictions that the Government have absolutely had to bring in have really gone to the core of people’s lives—whether it is the couples who have had to postpone what might have been an event that they had planned for not just months but years, or the wide range of businesses that have been fundamentally undermined.
I will focus on the correspondence that I have had from organisations such as The Barn at Avington, a wedding venue near my constituency; Balloons For U and Events For U, which have been fundamentally affected by the restrictions brought in around weddings and other events; Sofi Designs Bridal, which produces bridal wear as its main focus, and which has lost one of its main business lines without weddings; and DJs such as Aaron Purkiss and Garry Job, whose livelihoods have been fundamentally affected by what has gone on in the last six to nine months. All have written about the paralysis that has affected an important part of their income—the wedding industry—and the devastating impact on their livelihoods.
What those people need now more than ever is some certainty for the future. I know that the Minister cannot give us a cast-iron guarantee today about when things are going to change, but he can give us some certainty about the way in which the Government are going to move to a position where we start to live with the virus, rather than completely shut things down. We have heard about how we could change the rules around the capacity of venues to help weddings to go ahead on a slightly larger scale. There are many other things that he could be doing to prepare a road map for the future so that people can start planning their big day yet again, and businesses can see light at the end of the tunnel.