Thank you, Mr Stringer, I will do. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship.
I congratulate Catherine McKinnell on securing the debate and representing the petitioners so well. They are understandably crying out for help to get across the line, after such a difficult period. Hospitality has undoubtedly been one of the hardest pressed, if not the hardest pressed, sectors over the pandemic. I thank everybody who has contributed to the debate for the way in which they have put the case for their constituents.
Since taking on responsibility for food and beverage hospitality businesses in March last year and establishing a dedicated sponsorship team within the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, we have worked extremely closely with representatives from across the sector, so there has always been development. I will come back to the question of a dedicated Minister in a second, but essentially, this was split across a number of Departments and we now have a dedicated hospitality team that is working really hard.
I also put on record my gratitude to the sector itself for how its representatives have engaged with me and my officials throughout the pandemic. It is important to recognise that the hospitality sector is not just pubs and restaurants: cafés, the wedding sector, nightclubs and all the associated businesses that we have heard so much about today, including specialist suppliers, are also going through this. I thank them in particular for how they engaged with the safer workplace guidance to allow essential businesses to stay open, but also to allow these businesses to reopen at various points. Understandably, as we have discussed, the fact of the matter is that there has been opening and closing depending on the tier system, and that has been a source of frustration for everybody, especially—as my right hon. Friend Dr Lewis says—those that have had to pour away beer and throw away food at various points during this period.
We continue to work together with the sector across Government to make sure that we can strike the right balance between the covid-19 restrictions and the corresponding business support measures. As we have heard, we responded with an unprecedented package of support worth a staggering £280 billion, which included the grants, the furlough scheme, the various loan schemes, the business rates holiday, VAT deferrals, and of course the eat out to help out scheme. On top of that, we released additional funding worth £4.6 billion to help businesses through the current lockdown, which we estimate will help 600,000 hospitality businesses. We have also taken action to protect businesses by placing restrictions on landlords using commercial rents arrears recovery to enforce unpaid rents on commercial leases. Importantly, we have kept all the support measures under review to ensure that as far as possible, they have kept pace with the changing covid-19 situation and the need to flex restrictions accordingly.