The issue made Parliament’s agenda after more than 200,000 sector supporters – including celebrity chef and pub operator Tom Kerridge, James Martin and Angela Hartnett – signed a petition.
While the motion gained cross-party support in what was described by The Evening Standard as a “lively” debate, highlighting the challenges facing pubs, bars and restaurants, there will be no direct action as a result – though it is hoped that it will increase pressure on the Prime Minister to support the sector.
The #SeatAtTheTable petition argued that 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.
While the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, Paul Scully, argued that hospitality is already represented across Government and detailed measures including the furlough scheme, recent grants and loan schemes as well as the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, a number of MPs called on the Government to show further support.
As reported by The Evening Standard, Labour MPs Catherine McKinnell (Newcastle North), Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) and Charlotte Nichols (Warrington North) alongside former business secretary and Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells, Greg Clark, expressed support for the industry, with Powell criticising the Government’s “scattergun approach”.
McKinnell, who opened the debate, implored the Government to “recognise that the sector needs a strong voice in Government with a genuine recognition of its diversity” while Clark stressed the importance of backing businesses as they struggled through a third national lockdown.
Latest industry figures suggest that more than 600,000 jobs have been lost so far as a result of the ongoing pandemic.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls described the debate – and the cross party support for the hospitality sector – as “incredibly positive”
“There was unanimous recognition of our importance economically and socially,” she said.
“It was particularly pleasing to hear parts of the sector like nightclubs, wedding venues and conference centres being lauded - businesses that have not grabbed headlines in the way that other sectors have, but are no less important, as the debate recognised. There was also welcome recognition for our critical supply chain.
“It is striking that, in the end, the petition got more than 200,000 signatures,” she continued.
“We all understand the importance of what we do and it is good to see the Government recognise the importance of working closely with the sector to ensure that we are properly supported, not just during this crisis but more generally.”