Hospitality industry ‘on its knees’ due to lack of support

The Government’s failure to support the hospitality industry through the Covid crisis has left the sector “on its knees”, an MP has claimed.

John Spellar MP speaking in Westminster Hall on January 11, 2021.
John Spellar MP speaking in Westminster Hall on January 11, 2021.

John Spellar said lockdown restrictions had hit pubs and restaurants “time and time again” since the start of the pandemic.

The Labour MP for Warley accused Ministers of ignoring their efforts to make premises Covid safe, and said businesses had been forced to “dump tonnes of food and barrels of beer” because last minute decisions by the Government had left them unable to plan.

He also backed calls for a ministerial position to be created to “champion” hospitality in Whitehall.

Mr Spellar was speaking during a Westminster Hall debate on two petitions – signed by more than 245,000 people – calling for greater support for the UK’s hospitality industry.

He told MPs hospitality was “a huge driver” of the economy but that many business owners were now at “grave risk” of losing everything.

“The industry pays a huge amount of tax, but it is on its knees,” he said. “It has been hit time and time again by Government restrictions, often brought in with notice of only a day or two.

“Pubs and clubs, restaurants and hotels, betting shops and casinos all put in huge effort and cash to make their premises Covid secure and keep their customers safe.

"They were being responsible but, frankly, Ministers took precious little notice of that. They did not understand the industry and just shut it down at short notice because they wanted to be seen to be doing something.”

He cited the 10pm curfew as an example, which he said made “no sense” as there was “little data” showing that the industry was a major cause of the spread of the disease.

Chaos

Appointing a Minister for Hospitality would be “perfectly understandable”, he said, as it represented “hundreds of thousands of establishments” but was falling “between the bureaucratic cracks”.

“It needs someone to be its champion in Whitehall,” he added.

“The industry needs someone to understand the whole economic ecosystem and join the dots.

“A Minister might also have pointed out the chaos and waste that would occur when firms had to dump tonnes of food and barrels of beer because they were not able to plan.

“That was bad for the businesses and bad for the environment.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the Government was “extending and increasing” financial support for firms in an effort to provide “a bridge for people and businesses” until the economy reopens.

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