The meeting was agreed after the chair of the Petitions Committee and Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne North, Catherine McKinnell, wrote to the Prime Minister 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.
As reported by The Morning Advertiser (MA), a selection of cross-party MPs – including McKinnell – supported the motion following a 90-minute debate.
The issue made Parliament’s agenda on 11 January after more than 200,000 sector supporters – including celebrity chef and pub operator Tom Kerridge, James Martin and Angela Hartnett – signed a petition.
However, while petitions are an effective means of translating public option into political pressure, the Government are not mandated to pass them into law. What’s more, only the Prime Minister has the power to appoint a new minister and there is no way that Parliament can force him to do so other than by applying pressure through political channels.
Responding to McKinnell’s initial request that he meet #SeatAtTheTable petitioners following the debate, Johnson claimed he and his Government 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.
‘Great challenges ahead’
Since Johnson's initial response to the issue, however, McKinnell wrote to the Prime Minister urging his Government to meet with petitioners.
Additionally, almost a month after a selection of cross-party MPs backed a motion to appoint a dedicated minister for the hospitality sector, members of the House of Lords grilled the Government on its plans to further support the industry.
“Whilst I welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to agree to our call for the Government to meet with petitioners and hear their concerns about the need for greater support for the hospitality sector, I hope that the Prime Minister himself will consider their request that he creates a minister for hospitality to oversee Government delivery for this crucial diverse sector,” McKinnell said.
“Although the Government has provided a range of support to the hospitality industry throughout this pandemic, there are still great challenges ahead and a coordinated approach on this issue is vital at this critical time.
“The hospitality industry has been hit particularly hard during the pandemic, and remains vulnerable,” she continued. “Thousands of businesses are struggling and unclear about what lies ahead in the coming months, it is essential there is a focused voice within Government to represent the hospitality sector to ensure its place as a key driver of economic and cultural growth in every community.”