NTIA fires broadsides at UK and Welsh governments

By Gary Lloyd contact

- Last updated on GMT

Inquiry submissions: Michael Kill and Sacha Lord are two industry leaders quizzing the Government
Inquiry submissions: Michael Kill and Sacha Lord are two industry leaders quizzing the Government

Related tags: Legislation, Licensing, Health and safety, Social responsibility

The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) has joined forces with leading figures within the sector in criticising the Government’s draft terms for its inquiry into the full impact Covid has had for hospitality.

And it has also attacked the Welsh government in claiming it had no evidence to back up the closures and restrictions on late-night businesses during the pandemic.

Draft terms of reference, which cover what the probe will investigate and how it will be structured, were subject to a public consultation that closed on 7 April – with the inquiry due to start in spring – have met with criticism from the NTIA; Hugh Osmond, the founder of Punch Taverns; and Sacha Lord, night-time economy advisor for Greater Manchester.

They said the proposals fail to consider the impact of specific restrictions on hospitality such as the 10pm curfew and requirement for social distancing, closure of nightclubs and table service.

In their submission, the three business leaders said the measures caused "wide-reaching damage" including the bankruptcy of many previously viable businesses, unemployment, and negatively affecting the mental health of staff and business owners.

Sector deserves own inquiry 

Osmond said: “Hospitality employs more than 3m mainly young people and is a huge contributor to the UK’s economy, its communities, its social life and its overall quality of living. Given that it was also the main industry targeted by Government in its response to Covid, it deserves its own specific place in the public inquiry to: a) more accurately quantify the enormous damage inflicted by the measures; b) analyse which, if any, of the measures actually made any positive difference to ultimate Covid outcomes; c) what could be done better next time.”

“Above all, it is our belief that, in future, no measures with potentially massively damaging consequences, be they medical (such as vaccines or new drugs), or non-medical (such as school or hospitality closures), should ever be implemented by Government without conducting a reasonable prior evaluation of safety, effectiveness, harms, benefits, and other likely consequences.”

Lord added: “I continue to be contacted on a daily basis by operators in financial ruin as a direct result of the restrictions placed on the hospitality, events and cultural industries during the Covid-19 pandemic. The effects of these reckless and unproven restrictions on these industries will be felt for many years to come, and we must not allow this level of damage to be inflicted on these sectors again.”

NTIA chef executive Michael Kill said: “Few if any other sectors have been subject to the same level of restrictions on their ability to trade during this period. We need a rigorous accounting of whether the approach by the Government was proportionate, and what processes would need to be implemented in future to avoid the same mistakes.”

Freedom of information request

Meanwhile, the NTIA has said the Welsh government had no evidence to substantiate the restrictions or closure of nightclubs or late-night businesses during the pandemic.

Following the freedom of information requests submitted by the NTIA, "it has shown the Welsh government was unable to determine the source of cases, therefore could not quantify the risk presented by nightclubs or late-night venues".

When questioned on whether there was any evidence the Welsh government holds of Covid-19 spreader events in nightclubs, it said: “It is not possible to establish exactly where someone caught Covid-19, therefore it is not possible to provide the number of cases that were caught in specific venues. The Welsh government does not hold any information on spreader events.”

The NTIA’s Kill said: “As we expected, in the response from the FOI submitted by the NTIA Members to the Welsh Government, there is no evidence held by the Welsh Government that identifies nightclubs or late-night economy businesses as being any greater risk than other settings across the region.”

Peter Marks, chief executive of Rekom UK added: “In keeping with most governments, the Welsh government had chosen to put the worst restrictions on the late-night economy with no evidence whatsoever that their businesses were any worse than any other indoor settings. 

“The right way to have approached this would have been to do a risk assessment on every property and consider things such as air changes every hour, cleaning protocols, health and safety policies and training together with a consideration of capacity rather than just close a sector because of assumed customer behaviour.

“We were left in a position where pubs with no ventilation save the odd window were deemed fine whereas nightclubs with 15 air changes an hour or more were not.”

Related topics: Legislation

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