By 31 August, over 84,000 UK businesses had registered for the eat out to help out scheme and more than 100 million meals had been claimed for. By getting people back into the habit of enjoying a meal out, the scheme has helped to support nearly 2 million jobs in the hospitality sector and has played an important part in the Chancellor’s wider plan for jobs.
My right hon. Friend’s eat out to help out scheme was also hugely successful in Beaconsfield, where 88,000 discounted meals were enjoyed. I cannot say what percentage of those meals were enjoyed by me personally, but one can wager. What reassurances can my right hon. Friend provide to the House that he will continue to support the hospitality industry through reductions in VAT on food and attractions until next January?
I am delighted that the eat out to help out scheme has been so enthusiastically taken up in Beaconsfield, as it has been around the country, and I thank my hon. Friend for her personal service in this important area. She will know that the Chancellor’s plan for jobs and support for over 150,000 businesses and the effort to protect 2.4 million jobs are all part of a package. To them, of course, as she will know, the Government have also added a reduced rate of VAT for tourist attractions, which will run through to 12 January next year. It all fits together as part of a wider picture of support for these very important sectors of the economy.
In St Austell and Newquay, almost 250,000 meals were eaten—not all by me—as part of the eat out to help out scheme, which put around £1.3 million into our local economy, so on behalf of businesses in mid-Cornwall, I thank the Chancellor for his support. August has been incredibly busy in Cornwall, but the hospitality sector faces a big challenge as we head into winter. Will my right hon. Friend consider a similar scheme to be run in the winter to help as many businesses as possible survive the winter and be here next summer?
There is a danger of a bidding contest between colleagues over the number of meals eaten under the eat out to help out scheme. I would dissuade them from that. In answer to my hon. Friend’s question, however, I would say that there is this wider package. Of course the Treasury keeps all its measures under review, but it is a pretty formidable combination of VAT reductions, business rates relief and billions in tax deferrals and loans.
Given the great success of the eat out to help out scheme in Lincoln and Lincolnshire and across the country, which has led to higher spending in restaurants, will my right hon. Friend now consider further targeted support for struggling industries, such as the arts and tourism, which are drivers of the Lincoln and county economy of my constituency, not least the excellent Usher Gallery and under-pressure Drill Hall in Lincoln?
I am delighted that my hon. Friend has highlighted the great work of the Usher Gallery and the Drill Hall. As he will be aware, the Government have announced a £1.57 billion package of support for the culture sectors, which is designed to support, and will support, thousands of cultural and arts organisations across the country, including theatres, galleries, museums, heritage sites, live music venues and independent cinemas. I think that he will also know that, within that scheme, priority is given not just to organisations with a national or international reputation but to those that are central to the cultural fabric of our towns and regions. That is a very important further component.
Eat out to help out has been a massive lifeline for many pubs and restaurants in my Bridgend constituency. Some have told me that, because of it, they could remain afloat and keep people in work. What assessment has been made of the number of people and businesses in my constituency supported by the scheme?
I can tell my hon. Friend that 67 local businesses registered for the scheme and that it was used 53,000 times in Bridgend, which, while not like the heroic figures we have seen elsewhere, will have provided a very important boost to the local economy. I am sure that he will have had the experience that Members across the House will have had of walking into a café or restaurant and having the proprietor say, “Thank you so much. It has made a vital difference at a critical time of year for us.”