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High Street Businesses: Covid-19

Volume 681: debated on Monday 5 October 2020

What steps he is taking with Cabinet colleagues to support high street businesses during the covid-19 outbreak. (907019)

What steps he is taking with Cabinet colleagues to support high street businesses during the covid-19 outbreak. (907033)

Revitalising our towns and high streets is vital to the Government’s effort to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, supporting people’s jobs and getting businesses trading again. Last month, we provided an £80 million boost to over 100 towns from our £3.6 billion towns fund, kickstarting important local investment projects.

I thank my right hon. Friend for his answer. I also thank the Government for deciding to ease the lockdown on Bolton so that people can start using cafés, pubs and restaurants more normally. This has also had the benefit of bringing more people on to our high streets and increasing footfall. As a further step, will he consider having 10 pm as last orders to enable a safe exit from pubs and restaurants as people leave and perhaps use public transport?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. The requirement for pubs and some other businesses to be closed to the general public by 10 pm was designed to strike the balance of allowing people to continue to socialise while reducing social contact and minimising negative impacts on the economy. He will know that we do not take these decisions lightly. None of us would want that to continue a day longer than is necessary, and as with all measures, we will keep them under constant review.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. Many business owners in Fylde and their employees have found themselves on the frontline of enforcing social distancing guidelines in recent months. What is the Minister doing to support those businesses, as well as local authorities, to ensure that high streets remain safe and public confidence high?

My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that we published the safer urban centres and green spaces guidance to provide exactly that kind of information to business owners and councils. We have supported that with a £50 million reopening high streets safely fund and, more recently, with £60 million for the police and local councils to provide enforcement and compliance. This comes on top of our cuts to the taxes of local businesses through the business rates holiday, the 5% cut in VAT, and the reforms that we have taken through to help small businesses, whether that is on use class orders, outdoor dining and markets, or creating a simpler route through the planning system for regeneration—all measures designed to support businesses and protect jobs, and all opposed by the Labour party.