It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Mr Stringer. I, too, hope that we can return to virtual proceedings in Westminster Hall, so that all Members and staff can contribute safely amid rising infection rates. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend Catherine McKinnell for securing this important debate. I also thank the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and his night-time economy adviser, Sacha Lord, who have done so much in recent months to push the Government to provide a fair financial support package and who have set out the scale of the challenge facing my region.
The hospitality industry is a vital part of our economy and a growth industry. It is the fourth-biggest employer in the UK and contributed £133.5 billion to the economy in 2019. My constituency of Stockport is no different from many others in that a significant number of people are employed in the sector, many of whom have written to me to express their concerns about the lack of meaningful support provided by the Government. It is clear that the current measures, such as furlough payments, are little more than a drop in the ocean for many businesses struggling to keep their heads above water almost a year on from the start of the crisis. Far more needs to be done if we are to avoid the industry nosediving and hundreds of thousands across the UK ending up unemployed.
In Greater Manchester, more than two thirds of hospitality operators expect to make or have already made redundancies, 80% of which are in the restaurant sector. The failure of the Government to provide more meaningful support is perhaps why more than a third of businesses believe that they will never return to pre-covid levels, and why the hospitality sector expects to lose about 600,000 jobs by next month.
My constituents want the Government urgently to introduce more supportive measures during this period. For example, in the beer and pub sector, many businesses have called for the beer duty to be cut, for more pubs to be allowed to offer a takeaway service, and for wider financial support measures. That is even more pressing given the precarious nature of the pub industry, which in Stockport alone shrank by 25% in the decade prior to the pandemic. Publicans across my constituency, including Veronica Bell of the Sun and Castle, Pamela Clews of The Grey Horse and Ellen Davies of the Gardeners Arms have continued to go above and beyond to ensure that their businesses survive the crisis.
There is also an important point about supply chain businesses, such as Stephensons in my constituency, which supplies the catering trade across the north-west. Without their efforts, many more local jobs would have been lost and pubs would have disappeared for good from our high streets and communities. However, their hard work alone is not enough. Stockport Council recently made a successful bid for future high streets fund investment. Although that is welcome, it will do little to bring a halt to the significant decline in trade.
I therefore call on the Minister to provide assurances that the furlough scheme will be extended beyond its current deadline of the end of April and that other measures will be taken, such as the extension of business rates relief, until the hospitality sector is fully open again, as well as significant safety net measures such as Government-backed covid indemnity insurance policies like those we have seen in many European countries, including Germany.