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Hospitality Sector: Covid-19 Support

Volume 706: debated on Tuesday 11 January 2022

2. What plans he has to support small and medium-sized enterprises in the hospitality sector during the covid-19 outbreak. (904923)

In addition to our £400 billion package, including grants, loans, business rates relief, VAT discounts and the rent moratorium, we are providing a further £1 billion for hospitality businesses and an extra £100 million in discretionary grants—a lifeline for many small businesses.

Great British pubs are the heart of our community, especially in rural constituencies such as mine. I recently hosted a roundtable with several pubs in South West Hertfordshire, at which they expressed their concerns about the next few months after a tough December. Will the Minister confirm that he will do all he can to encourage people to return to their local pub? Will he commend publicans for their hard work making their businesses covid-safe, indoors and out?

I thank my hon. Friend for his support for our pubs. It is important that we save our pubs one pint at a time; they play a crucial role in our high streets, our communities and our wellbeing. I am working, through the hospitality recovery strategy, to champion pubs at the heart of our communities, many of which have been supporting the vulnerable during the pandemic. We will showcase the value of the excellent work of pub landlords to make venues covid-secure, including with good ventilation.

My nightclub in Brighton, Revenge—[Laughter.] It is not mine personally, although I do like to frequent it. It has seen a 60% fall in its patronage because of the latest variant. It is really struggling, but it has been told that it is not eligible for the latest round of grants because it has received previous grants, including the recovery grant. That is a real problem for our night-time economy and for many businesses. Will the Minister confirm that any business in the night-time economy or hospitality sector is eligible for the latest round of grants that he has released?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his reference to that aptly named nightclub in Brighton. Clearly, opening nightclubs is a big challenge because of ventilation, but they are eligible for discretionary grants: councils have £100 million for discretionary grants to support them.

The café and restaurant owners I met in Basingstoke before Christmas saw their bookings plummet in the key pre-Christmas weeks, so they will really welcome the extra support that the Minister speaks about. The newly recognised personal care sector—hair and beauty—was similarly hit. Will he support that sector as well: the hairdressers, barbers and beauty businesses that make up our high streets?

I support the personal care sector, which I have engaged with regularly over the past few weeks. My right hon. Friend refers to the hospitality sector, cafés and the like. The grants that we are now offering equate to the levels we were offering when those businesses were closed, in recognition of the chilling factor affecting the number of events booked in the lead-up to Christmas—that is the rationale behind it. The care sector can also get discretionary grants from the local authority.

Tory failures on the economy now show all too clearly that the Tories are no longer the party of business. Business taxes and costs are rising, revenues and profits are falling, and businesses face a cliff edge in March as support is withdrawn. Yet when hospitality businesses were losing, on average, £10,000 a week, the Chancellor was in California, with the Business Secretary nowhere to be seen. Does the Minister agree that hospitality businesses, hit hard by covid and Government chaos, need more than the one-off grants finally announced, and will he now back Labour’s calls for the Government to consider extending the VAT discount for hospitality?

This Government continue to be the Government and the party for businesses, and that includes the hard-pressed hospitality sector, which is such a crucial part of the ecosystem of our high streets, our cities, and our coastal and rural areas. The Secretary of State and I spoke to hospitality sector representatives of all kinds within hours of the announcement of the move to plan B ahead of Christmas, and we will continue to support them as best we can.