Hospitality Industry: Government Support — [Graham Stringer in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:44 pm on 11th January 2021.

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Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Minister of State (London) 5:44 pm, 11th January 2021

I will not give way, just so that I do not run out of time, but I will come back to the hon. Gentleman in a second.

Like those who have taken the time to sign a petition, and those right hon. and hon. Members who have taken part in today’s debate, I recognise the importance of the hospitality sector, not just to local areas but to whole communities and to the country as a whole. We have heard that the sector employs around 3.5 million people overall, and in normal circumstances generates revenues of around £63 billion a year. It is strategically important to the UK, as well, traditionally being the first sector to recover following an economic downturn and acting as a catalyst for wider economic recovery and regeneration.

Most importantly, the sector lies at the heart of communities, providing jobs and places to enjoy companionship and supporting mental health and wellbeing, social cohesion and cultural integration. It is important that when we talk about culture—about meeting people—we remember that that is what hospitality is there to do, and it is really sad that the restrictions and lockdown itself are there to stop people meeting people. As we have heard, though, that is not to say that hospitality in itself is the vector for transmission. It is really important that we do not scapegoat the hospitality sector, which has done so much—it has spent a lot of money and put in a lot of effort—to make its venues covid-secure.

Turning to the question of establishing a Minister for hospitality, responsibility is currently split between BEIS and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: BEIS is responsible for the food and beverage industries, and DCMS is responsible for accommodation, primarily hotels, as part of its tourism remit. There is clearly some overlap between these important industries, and I work closely with the Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage at DCMS, my hon. Friend Nigel Huddleston, to ensure that the interests of this sector as a whole are fully represented across Government.

The close collaboration that we have means that the policy levers in both DCMS and BEIS can be employed effectively to the benefit of the sector. Clearly, it is not within my gift to create a new ministerial post—that power rests solely with the Prime Minister—but I can assure hon. Members that the two of us are doing all we can within Government to understand and represent the interests of the sector. Whether or not we have a dedicated Minister for hospitality, we need to ensure that the sector is in the best possible place to bounce back from covid-19, so that it can play a leading role in the UK’s economic and social recovery.

We know that the hospitality sector has often shown great resilience and innovation in adapting; such adaptation is not a new phenomenon. We saw that hospitality was one of the first sectors to recover after the 2007 financial crisis, which helped drive the UK’s recovery more generally. In order to achieve the same level of recovery that we saw following that crisis, we are committed to maintaining support to the sector until the vaccines are rolled out and businesses can open without restrictions. However, we also need to think about and plan for the longer-term recovery.

The UK has a world-leading net zero target. I want to see the creativity that helps define the hospitality sector put to good use in helping to tackle climate change, by developing and utilising new technologies and processes to minimise emissions and, importantly, waste. Although this is a challenging time for the sector, it is essential that, as we bounce back, we work with hospitality businesses to build back their industry so that it is stronger and greener.

I thank Caroline Lucas, who was unable to attend the debate today but sent me a statement from hospitality businesses in her constituency, supporting the creation of the ministerial position and emphasising the important role that the sector will need to play in our economic recovery and growth. I hope that I have addressed both those points.

We have had a very interesting debate, starting with Jim Shannon. One of the regular calls that I have with the industry includes Colin Neill from Hospitality Ulster. We also heard from Ian Paisley, who talked about Van Morrison. Actually, a Van Morrison gig was one of the last gigs that I went to at the O2, to raise money for the Royal Marsden Hospital. The O2 itself is now one of the nightingale hospitals, and one of the people who set it up was the chief nurse at the Marsden—everything comes around in a circular fashion, which shows the unusual times we are in.

With regard to the coffee culture that my hon. Friend Steve Brine talked about, we should not forget that takeaway coffees also play a part for shift workers, who need such extra support, so not everything that is seen as non- essential is non-essential to certain people.

There is no way we can have a one-size-fits-all policy. Certainly what I have learnt about the hospitality sector over the past nine or 10 months is that a lot of work is being done behind the scenes, whether with me or with my hon. Friend the Minister for Sport, or through lobbying by Colin Neill, Kate Nicholls or Emma McClarkin, or through lobbying from the chief executives of the larger pub businesses, the independent pubs, the restaurant groups and all those sorts of businesses. That means we can address issues such as the 10 pm curfew, which was a blunt instrument, as has been outlined. It clearly stopped restaurants having second sittings, but it also stopped pubs selling a lot of alcohol at that time—a lot of their profit is created at that time but it was also pushing people together. I am also the Minister for London and I saw at that time a 40% increase in the use of the tube between 10 pm and 10.15 pm. The curfew was clearly pushing people together, doing the opposite of what we wanted. It was therefore right to make the case against it and have it reversed.