Petitions Committee chair urges PM to engage with ‘particularly vulnerable’ hospitality sector

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Need for a 'strong voice': 'thousands of businesses have been left struggling and unclear about what lies ahead in the coming months,' Catherine McKinnell MP said
Need for a 'strong voice': 'thousands of businesses have been left struggling and unclear about what lies ahead in the coming months,' Catherine McKinnell MP said

Related tags Boris johnson Prime minister House of commons Parliament Legislation Coronavirus

Catherine McKinnell MP has written to Boris Johnson urging him to pursue a 'coordinated approach' with the hospitality sector after the PM appeared cool on the idea of appointing a dedicated minister for the ailing industry.

The Committee penned a letter to the PM just over a week after petition to appoint a dedicated minister for the hospitality sector hit Westminster boasting more than 208,000 signatures on 11 January.

As reported by The Morning Advertiser (MA)​, a selection of cross-party MPs – including Petitions Committee chair and Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne North Catherine McKinnell – supported the motion following a 90-minute debate.

However, responding to McKinnell’s request that he meet #SeatAtTheTable petitioners following the debate, Johnson claimed he and his Governmetn were already doing “everything we can” to support the sector.

“The best thing for the hospitality sector is we all work together to defeat the virus, in the way I’m absolutely certain we can, with disciplined action and the vaccine roll out, and get it back on its feet, and I am sure that is the best thing for it,” he added. 

However, in the letter sent on 19 January, the Committee explained that hospitality is one of the few industries which exists in all parts of the country, covering the arts, culture and tourism.  

What’s more, it suggests that the sector will play a crucial role in the recovery from the Covid-19 recession, particularly in providing jobs for young people. 

Although the letter acknowledges measures that the Government has already provided the sector, it highlights the lack of a long-term strategy and urges the Government develop a more coordinated approach to its challenges.

The Committee’s letter can be read in full here​.

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Coordinated approach ‘vital’

In the days since the appointment of a minister for hospitality was debated in Westminster, a survey of nearly 1,000 Brits by global intelligence platform Streetbees found that just 17% of respondents had faith in the Government to save community venues such as pubs from closure during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

What’s more, two-thirds (65%) of those quizzed don’t believe enough is currently being done to ensure pubs survive the pandemic, with just 13% saying current Government measures are sufficient and almost a quarter (22%) undecided. 

In light of these findings, more than half (57%) of those questioned agreed that the hospitality sector should have a dedicated cabinet minister​.

“Although the Government has provided a range of support to the hospitality industry throughout this pandemic, it is clear that there are still many great challenges that lie ahead as the country begins to recover,” McKinnell said. “A coordinated approach on this issue is vital.

“The hospitality industry has been particularly vulnerable during the pandemic, and although great efforts have been made to adapt quickly, thousands of businesses have been left struggling and unclear about what lies ahead in the coming months. 

“It is crucial that there is a strong voice within Government to represent the diverse interests of those who own businesses and work within the hospitality sector to prevent further closures and losses of jobs.

“The Prime Minister is the only person in Government with the authority to create this position, and I urge him and his Ministerial colleagues to make time to meet with the petitioners to listen to their concerns.” 

The Morning Advertiser’s​ editor, Ed Bedington, also weighed in on the representation of the hospitality sector in Government discussions after the #SeatAtTheTable petition debate, stating: “we need to go beyond just a minister, we need a whole department​”.

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