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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 7:15 pm on 9th November 2020.

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Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (London) 7:15 pm, 9th November 2020

My right hon. Friend speaks of something that I have been working on for some time. I have seen it myself, and I have worked with, and had weekly conversations with, representatives of the hospitality sector. I have spoken to representatives of the nightclub sector on a few occasions as well, which I will come to in a second.

Some people have mentioned Northern Ireland, which has a separate system and a different system for weddings. The frustrating thing for me, when trying to work with health professionals and the hospitality sector, is that the incidence of transmission is so high in Northern Ireland at the moment. I am not suggesting that that is connected to the hospitality sector in any way, shape or form, but it becomes very difficult to disaggregate the data and to work through the evidence with health professionals. However, I will continue to do so.

Going back to the events sector, we have been working so that businesses will be protected from the threat of eviction until the end of the year. We have extended the moratorium for commercial tenants, which is incredibly important. Music venues create, present and support many different genres of music, and they have been eligible to apply for funds from the £1.57 billion support package for key cultural organisations to help them through the pandemic. As part of the cultural recovery fund, some festivals, dance venues and nightclubs received grants, including the Ministry of Sound and the MADE festival.

Some £3.36 million has been shared among 136 venues across England that applied for the emergency grassroots music venues fund, which has supported grassroots venues to survive the imminent risk of collapse, but I know that this is an ongoing situation. I have spoken to a number of nightclub operators, including Deltic, Fabric and Stonegate pubs, which owns nightclub venues as well. I have spoken to Mike Kill from the Night Time Industries Association, who has been mentioned a couple of times, and indeed to Sacha Lord, whom Lucy Powell talked about. He has been particularly proactive and constructive, and I welcome further discussions with him.

My hon. Friend the Member for Carshalton and Wallington talked about deathbed weddings. Civil partnerships and weddings where one of the people getting married is seriously ill and not expected to recover are limited to six people in the national guidance. It should not be that local authorities enforce that in any different way, apart from that specific thing. I will take his point on extended families to the relevant Department and reflect on it with the Minister with direct responsibility for that area.

I served on the Petitions Committee with Catherine McKinnell for many years. I am getting used to being on this side of the desk rather than on the other. She talked about venues in Newcastle and the cultural void that will emerge if they disappear. I am also Minister for London, so I know about that only too well. I have talked about the Gotham City scenario. If the ultra-rich are insulated from everything and poorer people on low incomes are forced into the city centre to service those areas, but we hollow out the culture and the mass of people coming in and spending, that will create a very different city.

We will be so much poorer if we get rid of our culture as a result of this pandemic, so we must work as hard as we can to avoid the sobering statistics that my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury talked about regarding nightclubs, weddings and other events. The impact on the economy is quite severe, so we will continue to work as hard as we can. The new national restrictions have obviously replaced the tiered local restrictions. I want to ensure that we can learn to live with the virus, and that we work towards getting a vaccine and rapid testing in the spring, so that we can come to the new reality beyond the new normal.