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Parliament debates creation of new hospitality minister position

The need for a dedicated minister for hospitality was debated in Parliament, 11 January. While the focus of the debate centred on typical hospitality sectors, such as restaurants, pubs and hotels, their connection to the wider ecosystem, such as the events industry, was raised by Lucy Powell, Labour MP for Manchester Central.

The debate was brought to Parliament after a petition reached 200,000 signatures.

Addressing MPs in Westminster, Powell said: “We have heard that hospitality is a huge part of our economy. It was the third biggest employer before Covid, generating billions in turnover and tax. Such businesses make up the heart and soul of our town centres, city centres, high streets and communities. They are a key part of the ecosystem and they bring people and places together.

“We saw that recently in the BBC documentary that Tom Kerridge, one of the supporters of the petition, presented. There is a wider ecosystem, too, from the supply chain that we have heard about to taxi drivers and security, as well as hotels, events and weddings. Hospitality is a huge, interlinked and diverse sector, and it employs many young people, those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and women. It was growing before, and it will grow again.”

Powell said that it was the right thing to do to support businesses and added that every previously viable business that goes bust will lengthen and deepen the long tail of recovery.

“Supporting businesses is also the right thing to do morally, because they have closed to keep us safe,” Powell added. “It is only right that the Government should step in to support them and keep them going. With light at the end of the tunnel, it is now even more important that there is a proper long-term plan to help businesses survive to that point and then thrive beyond it.”

Powell also said that the latest support measures do not go far enough to support many businesses. She said: “We have to be honest about the announcements that have been made this week. The £9,000 is not available to most businesses; five out of six will get a lot less than that. Even when taken together with the local restrictions grant, it is still a lot less than what was received last time around. It does not even cover businesses in the supply chain, who are again waiting to see whether discretionary grants will come to them; for many, they will not.”

Powell concluded by saying a proper reopening strategy was now needed. “The Government need to stop their scattergun approach, which leads to sticking-plaster solutions, and come up with a proper long-term plan for this hugely important sector in distress,” she said.

Paul Scully, Conservative MP for Sutton and Cheam, confirmed that the hospitality industry is, much like the events industry, split between the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

He said: “Turning to the question of establishing a minister for hospitality, responsibility is currently split between BEIS and the DCMS: BEIS is responsible for the food and beverage industries, and DCMS is responsible for accommodation, primarily hotels, as part of its tourism remit. There is clearly some overlap between these important industries, and I work closely with the minister for sport, tourism and heritage at DCMS, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Nigel Huddleston), to ensure that the interests of this sector as a whole are fully represented across Government.

“The close collaboration that we have means that the policy levers in both DCMS and BEIS can be employed effectively to the benefit of the sector. Clearly, it is not within my gift to create a new ministerial post—that power rests solely with the Prime Minister—but I can assure hon. Members that the two of us are doing all we can within Government to understand and represent the interests of the sector.

“Whether or not we have a dedicated Minister for hospitality, we need to ensure that the sector is in the best possible place to bounce back from Covid-19, so that it can play a leading role in the UK’s economic and social recovery.”

The debate has prompted discussion within the events industry that the Government create a minister of events, with the business events sector more closely aligned to the BEIS.