It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. I rise to speak as the chairman of the all-party parliamentary group for hospitality and tourism. I thank all the petitioners who signed the petitions, in particular the 400 residents of the St Austell and Newquay constituency who put their name to a petition and whom I have the honour of representing.
I place on the record my thanks to the Minister: I believe that we have a Minister for hospitality—that may not be in his title, but I know from my work with him over the past year, he has always been available to me and colleagues across the House to address the concerns of the sector. He has also worked closely with the sector, so although I recognise the call for a Minister have “ hospitality” in his name, I do not accept the premise that we do not have a Minister for hospitality, because we very much do.
I also place on the record my thanks to, and recognition of, all hospitality businesses across the country for the way in which they have approached the past 10 months, and for the way in which they have adapted, taken a positive attitude to making their premises safe for visitors and worked together to get us through this pandemic. I thank and recognise them for all that they have done.
There is no doubt about the vital role that hospitality plays in our economy, as other colleagues have mentioned. One in six new jobs created over the past 10 years has been in this sector. It is a great vehicle for social mobility, for people from all sorts of backgrounds to get into a career and into management quickly. It impacts every community. The Government have recognised that with the unprecedented level of support that they have given to the sector. Although I would join calls for the need for more support, we should recognise the incredible support that has been put in place and is very much welcomed by the sector.
One of the key points to reinforce, which I do not think has been fully recognised in the support that the Government have made available, is the impact on hospitality of having to close quickly when decisions have been made to protect public health. Those decisions have been right, but the impact that they have had on the hospitality sector has been disproportionate. It is very different for a clothes shop having to close—six or 10 weeks later, the clothes will still be there. The food in the fridge and the beer in the seller will not last, however, and has to be thrown away. More support needs to be given to the sector to recognise that.
I join the calls made by many others: we need to extend the support for the sector. I very much look to the Chancellor, in the Budget, to extend the VAT cut—many businesses have not been able to make use of it, because they were closed for so long—and the business rates holiday. I would add that the opportunity should be taken to reform business rates in this sector. They have been unfairly impacting the sector for far too long. Let us take this opportunity to reform business rates, as well as extending the holiday.