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Night-time Economy

Volume 706: debated on Tuesday 11 January 2022

BEIS and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport sponsor the hospitality and entertainment sectors, both of which support the night-time economy. Alongside the £400 billion package of grants, loans, business rates relief, VAT discounts and rent moratoriums, we are providing £1 billion-worth of grants and £100 million-worth of discretionary grants.

Although the night-time economy has clearly been thriving in Whitehall, especially at the height of lockdown, many bars, clubs and pubs across the rest of London are unfortunately struggling to stay afloat, and many of them employee my constituents. The Night Time Industries Association suggests that its members have lost, on average, £45,000 over the festive period, so the grants do not touch the sides. Will the Minister commit to providing further financial support to this sector by reintroducing the 100% business rates relief and the emergency 5% VAT rate?

The business rates relief and VAT relief continue, but the grants the Chancellor has offered equate to the grants we previously offered when the same businesses were mandated to close, in recognition of the chilling effect. Clearly we will continue to work with the hospitality sector, which wants to stay open and trade normally. That is why we are learning to live with covid, in contrast with, for example, Labour-run Wales, where the hospitality sector has remained hampered by further restrictions.

I welcome all the support the Government have given to businesses and all the work the Minister has done personally in this area. However, hospitality and the night-time economy in Bexleyheath town centre still face real challenges with staffing as well as finance. Will my hon. Friend continue to meet representatives of these sectors to take their views on board and see what more can be done, particularly on staffing?

I absolutely agree with my right hon. Friend. Interestingly, we now have 400,000 more people in work than before the pandemic, which is testament to the plan for jobs and the plan for growth, but we need to address the record number of vacancies. We need to match them with the people in work who want to work more hours, and we will do that between the Department for Work and Pensions and my work in BEIS. There will be a cross-Government approach to make sure hospitality can thrive.

The Minister knows that Newcastle’s night-time economy is absolutely core to our city’s appeal and character. But we know that businesses in the night-time economy have accrued massive debts during this period. They are struggling with the continued uncertainty that omicron is bringing. We know that the night-time economy—our nightlife—is what makes Newcastle great and discretionary grants are welcome, but we know that some areas are impacted worse than others and have less discretionary ability to spend that on the night-time economy. So, will the Minister look at specific, targeted support for that sector, for those areas that really need it?

We are trying make sure that the cities can open in full. That is a return to work, a return for students, a return to domestic travel, and a return to international travel. All those people contribute to that ecosystem of hospitality, and indeed the night-time economy, so cities have a particular view that we need to approach. We will continue to flex and work with businesses as they open up fully to pay down their debt and to trade as normally as possible to ensure that the hospitality sector—the night-time economy—can thrive in Newcastle.