To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if he will place in the Library copies of correspondence in which he sought epidemiological advice on the Eat Out To Help Out scheme before the announcement of that scheme.
The hospitality sector was one of the worst affected by the lockdown and the Eat Out to Help Out scheme was intended to support 129,000 businesses and help protect almost 2 million jobs, disproportionately occupied by workers who are young, female and BAME. By midnight 31 August, there had been 100 million meals claimed for as part of the scheme.
The scheme was designed in a safe and responsible manner to aid business owners who worked hard to implement the social distancing guidelines and make their premises safe. All businesses eligible for the support under the scheme were required to implement all applicable health and safety measures, including social distancing guidelines and Covid-secure guidance. The scheme was also designed to boost demand when it is typically lowest – during the week, Monday-Wednesday – rather than at the weekend when some restaurants will face excess demand. It did not include spend on alcohol due to its public health impact, which has significant economic and social costs.
The government considers the effect of all measures in aggregate, including the support scheme and targeted restrictions required, based on a range of epidemiological evidence and the expert advice of SAGE. Public Health England’s National COVID-19 Surveillance Reports over August and the early part of September showed that only a small fraction of incidents investigated were linked to restaurant settings. These reports are available on the government’s website.