The fact that there are two petitions shows how important this issue is. To my hon. Friend Stephen Doughty, I would say that Marston’s is an excellent brewery that really looks after the trade.
The hospitality industry is a huge driver of our economy, as many hon. Members have said. It employs millions directly and in its supply chain. It is an energetic innovator—my hon. Friend Catherine McKinnell talked about how it responded to the pandemic and how businesses opened. In many small businesses, there are individuals who have invested their lives, savings and hopes in the industry and see them at grave risk.
The industry is also a vital part of our social fabric, our communities, our sense of self and our wellbeing. Our hospitality and entertainment environment is one of our big attractions to the wider world. It not only attracts tourists, but is one of the reasons why companies and workers come here, rather than go to many other countries.
Of course, the industry pays a huge amount of tax, but it is on its knees. It has been hit time and time again by Government restrictions, often brought in with notice of only a day or two. Pubs and clubs, restaurants and hotels, betting shops and casinos all put in huge effort and cash to make their premises covid secure and keep their customers safe. They were being responsible but, frankly, Ministers took precious little notice of that. They did not understand the industry and just shut it down at short notice because they wanted to be seen to be doing something.
What better example than the 10 pm curfew, which made no sense? Ministers took no notice of representations from those who work in the industry—especially pubs, restaurants and casinos. Incidentally, there was very little data to show that the industry was a major cause of the spread of disease. In fact, I talked to the public health officer in my area of Sandwell, and it was quite the contrary.
The petition for a Minister for the industry is perfectly understandable, because the industry falls between different Departments. It represents hundreds of thousands of establishments and falls between the bureaucratic cracks. It needs someone to be its champion in Whitehall.
One quick example is the coach industry. That key part of domestic tourism was left out in the cold, devastating thousands of family businesses and undermining the hospitality businesses they serve. The industry needs someone to understand the whole economic ecosystem and join the dots. A Minister might also have pointed out the chaos and waste that would occur when firms had to dump tonnes of food and barrels of beer because they were not able to plan. That was bad for the businesses and bad for the environment.