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, because I have only a couple of minutes left and I want to give the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North a little time to respond to the debate.

From my business role through to my work with the hospitality sector, and in my work as Minister for London, I can see that any town centre, any city area or any retail area is an ecosystem. People do not go to a hotel, such as those within a mile or two of where we are now, just to sleep in another bed; they go because they want to spend time in the pubs, restaurants, theatres, museums, galleries and all the things that a city such as London has to offer. It is the same with Newcastle, Manchester or any of our fantastic towns across the country, and clearly it is also the same for rural areas such as Cornwall, which my hon. Friend Damien Moore mentioned when he talked about tourism in his part of the world.

Indeed, that is a really interesting point about tourism in coastal or rural areas in particular, because we are now in the third winter of their three-winter scenario—we had the winter last year; then we had the summer, when they would expect to make a lot of their profits but effectively it was a winter for them; and now, as we can feel here in Westminster Hall today, this is really a third winter. It is important that we continue to work very closely with those areas.

I am more than happy to work with all hon. Members to ensure that we do not just hear the understandable cries of anguish from the hospitality sector, but work out what we can do, given the public finances, to continue to flex, work on the recovery and look at how we can stagger the reopening. In a few weeks’ time, we will get to the point with the vaccine roll-out, hopefully alongside the plateauing of the case load, at which we will have a better idea of the timescale and can start talking about a road map.

I know, because we talked about this last summer, that businesses, especially the bigger ones that have greater resources and can do that sort of forward thinking, will already be thinking about how to roll out the reopening of pubs, restaurants, cafés and, importantly, the wedding sector, which my hon. Friend Jane Hunt mentioned. I would love to get to that point, whether through pilots or just through working with the wedding sector, which is understandably filling my timeline on Twitter and social media—I can see exactly why it is doing that. After that, we can deal with the nightclub sector—we heard about Sacha Lord, who does a remarkable job in raising these issues with me and colleagues—which is a really tough one to crack. Hopefully we can get to the point where it can open.

I could go on forever, but I want to leave some time for the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North. Hospitality brings people together. We have heard a lot of calls for the evidence for why various measures were put in place. If hon. Members look at the infographics and the rules and guidance for this particular part of the lockdown, they will see that there are three words at the top of pretty much every page: “Stay at home.” Unfortunately, that is what everything is about. It is not about meeting. This will be a really tough few months, because it is miserable outside. With regard to exercise and so on, it is not going to be good. We need to offer hope to those businesses and get them across the finishing line so that we have a better summer and ensure that we do not have a fourth winter.

The hospitality sector represents friendship, generosity, enjoyment and happiness. It is a tonic for loneliness and a warm welcome for visitors at the heart of our communities. In short, hospitality matters. We will continue to work with hospitality businesses to get them through the immediate crisis and then help them to build back stronger and greener.