Parliament to debate hospitality minister appointment today

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Hospitality hero needed: 'Industries like manufacturing, retail and aviation all have a dedicated minister and we need that seat at the table,' celebrity chef Angela Hartnett said
Hospitality hero needed: 'Industries like manufacturing, retail and aviation all have a dedicated minister and we need that seat at the table,' celebrity chef Angela Hartnett said

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The appointment of the UK’s first ever dedicated hospitality minister will be debated in Parliament today (Monday 11 January) after more than 200,000 sector supporters signed a petition.

As reported by The Morning Advertiser (MA)​, a parliamentary debate has been on the cards since December​ following the success of the #SeatAtTheTable campaign, which won the backing of celebrity chefs including James Martin as well as other high profile hospitality stakeholders.

When the notion of a dedicated minister for hospitality was initially raised, the Government responded by recognising the importance of the sector but reasserting that it was already catered for under existing infrastructure. 

“The sector is extremely broad, ranging from the arts and entertainment to pubs, cafes and restaurants, and as such responsibility for the sector as a whole is shared by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport,” a response explained.

However, having notched more than 200,000 signatures since November, the petition will be debated by MPs at 4.30pm and will be available to watch via the UK Parliament YouTube channel​ or on Parliament TV​.

Latest industry figures suggest that more than 600,000 jobs have been lost so far as a result of the ongoing pandemic.

Listen to concerns

The petition, which had achieved 204,428 signatures of a 100,000 target at the time of writing, asks that a minister for hospitality be created for the current, and successive Governments.

It argues the UK hospitality industry is responsible for around 3m jobs and generates £130bn in activity resulting in £38bn in taxation but, unlike the arts or sports, does not have a dedicated minister.

“A dedicated minister would liaise with industry representatives,” it explains. “We believe such a minister would have been beneficial to Government and industry during the pandemic.

“As the UK seeks to encourage investment and tourism back to the UK in coming years, the vision that UK hospitality industry portrays of the UK is excellence, innovation, inspiration.

“We need a minister who can listen to concerns on taxation and legislation and bring forward suggestions to the chancellor and policy makers on our behalf.”

‘Hospitality hero’ needed

The #SeatAtTheTable campaign has been driven by chefs, restaurant owners and trade body UKHospitality after being launched by boutique hotel group the Pig founder Robin Hutson and industry magazine editor Claire Bosi, with support from high-profile figures including celebrity chef and pub operator Tom Kerridge and Jason Atherton.

Celebrity chef and campaign backer Angela Hartnett, who has appeared on a wide variety of cooking shows, from Hell’s Kitchen​ to MasterChef UK​, said: “Hospitality is the third biggest employer in the UK and deserves a seat at the top table. We need a hospitality hero in Government to speak up for the local pubs, coffee shops and restaurants. Someone who understands our businesses and how we work.

“This is about helping us to help the country get back on its feet.  We can’t wait to welcome people back to our bars and dining rooms but we need the Government to protect our businesses and these jobs to ensure we are there when this is over. 

Hartnett added she believed the Covid crisis has shown hospitality is a major economic and social force and in need of proper representation in Government. 

“Industries like manufacturing, retail and aviation all have a dedicated minister and we need that seat at the table,” she added. “It’s wrong we don’t have our own minister given the size and scale of hospitality and how important it is in providing jobs and public funding for vital services.   

“Now the vaccine is here, we want to help the country come roaring back and also to get our venues open, to do what we do best and look after people and give them a great time. And in doing so, this industry will generate millions in tax to repair the public coffers and pay for vital services like the NHS and social care. But we need help to do it.”

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