Speaking at the House of Lords in Westminster yesterday (Tuesday 7 November) King Charles III ushered in the start of the political year and laid out the Government’s plans for the next 12-months.
The King said the Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine had had a “significant impact” on the UK and that ministers would work to “change this country for the better”.
However, there was no reference made on how the Government would support hospitality businesses over the coming year.
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Chairman Nik Antona said. “It is disappointing the Government’s agenda for the coming parliamentary session makes no reference to supporting pubs, brewers, or the wider hospitality industry.”
Antona also referenced the Crooked House pub in Staffordshire, which was set ablaze earlier this year in a suspected arson attack and subsequently demolished.
The chairman claimed yesterday’s speech was an “opportunity” for the Government to make a “firm commitment to pub protection” and announce legislation to “bolster” planning enforcement tools available to local authorities.
“In light of the tragic case of the Crooked House in Himley, CAMRA published data showing potentially unlawful pub demolitions and conversions continue to take place.
“Unfortunately, we are still uncertain about whether the Government will act, and they have already ruled out making legislative changes to the Pubs Code, to better balance the relationship between pub companies and their tenants, and to improve consumer choice in the tied pub estate”, he continued.
The King did make reference to Martyn’s Law, stating ministers would focus on the “safety” of the British people.
UKHospitality (UKH) chief executive Kate Nicholls described the developments around Martyn’s Law as “especially relevant” for hospitality venues.
She said: “The announcement of a new consultation on the standard tier, for venues with a capacity of 100 to 799 people, is positive and we will continue to make the case for proportionate and practical measures that work effectively for both businesses and their customers.”
Details were also outlined regarding the carryover of the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers bill, which Nicholls said was “important in tackling the scourge of fake reviews”.
“While there is, rightly, a clear focus on consumers, we are continuing to urge the Government to ensure there are measures included to also protect businesses affected”, she added.
In addition, King Charles stated the Government planned to “ease the cost of living” by helping business fund new jobs and investment as well as focusing on education, notably the introduction of Advanced British Standard and improving apprenticeships.
“The King’s Speech kicked off a crucial session of Parliament for hospitality businesses, at a challenging time for many and with a general election looming."
Legislation on energy security to “reduce reliance on volatile energy markets and hostile foreign regimes” would also be implemented, the King added.
“Faster and more reliable” journeys would also be prioritised through investment into Network North, he explained, while “sensible decisions” would be made with regards to spending and borrowing in a bid to reduce public sector debt.
It also noted a commitment to pursuing free trade deals post Brexit, which Nicholls said the trade body would “continue to make a case” for the Youth Mobility Scheme to be a part of.
The address marked the first King’s speech in more than 70-years, the last being King George VI in 1951, however, figures from the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) recently revealed there were 30,000 fewer pubs across the nation since then.
According to the data, there were around 75,000 pubs in the UK in 1951, but there has been a 39% drop in the number of venues over the last seven decades, with 15% decline in the last ten years alone, attributed in part to the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis.
The association further estimated by the time King Charles celebrates his tenth anniversary on the throne in 2033, the figures could plummet by a further 18%.
BBPA chief executive Emma McClarki said: “Despite the decline in their numbers since the last King’s Speech, pubs remain right at the heart of communities across the UK, often acting as the only remaining hub for groups or individuals of any creed, any background looking to come together, bond and relax.
“The Government had a golden opportunity with this King’s Speech to give vital affirmation of the role of those pubs in local communities and economies by providing further investment to ensure the enduring survival and success of this great British institution.”
Following the address, Nicholls called for the Government to address the “looming rise” in business rates next April as part of the Autumn Statement later this month.
She continued: “The King’s Speech kicked off a crucial session of Parliament for hospitality businesses, at a challenging time for many and with a general election looming.
“The address featured the emphasis on continuing to improve the economic outlook for the nation and our sector continues to look towards the Autumn Statement for action on other critical areas for hospitality businesses.
“An extension of relief and a freeze in the multiplier is essential for the sector to continue doing what it does best – creating jobs, driving economic growth and investing in communities.”