Hospitality Industry: Government Support

Ian Paisley Excerpts
Monday 11th January 2021

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Westminster Hall

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Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Ian Paisley Portrait Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP)
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It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Stringer. You are a very hospitable person, but it is so cold in here—I have stood in warmer graveyards—that it is not so hospitable in terms of temperature. I hope that it will not be a political graveyard for anyone here, but it would founder ye, as we would say in Northern Ireland.

I wholly agree with the way in which the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell) moved the motion. I think that everyone can say a hearty “Hear, hear” to what she put on the agenda. It was a comprehensive piece of work, and I agree that all the regions of the United Kingdom need to swing behind the point she made. She made sound, good points.

To put a little perspective on the case, in Northern Ireland there are 60,000 direct jobs in the hospitality sector. In other words, one in 20 people in Northern Ireland works in the sector. We are a small economy. Before covid, I had 1 million out-of-state visitors to my constituency—principally visiting the Giant’s Causeway, a world-renowned geological site. For a place with a population of 1.7 million, getting 1 million visitors dramatically changes the local economy. We have 45,000 jobs directly in food and drink. We contribute about £88 million to the Chancellor’s purse each year in direct taxation, and we contribute about £1.1 billion to our entire economic picture; that is, for an economy of £13 billion, a sizeable piece that the hospitality sector provides.

The impact of covid has therefore been staggering and massive, but we must look forward. In the last 52 weeks the hospitality sector has probably traded for only about 13 weeks, so it has not had the benefit of the VAT cut the Government gave it. That must be extended, and I hope that the Minister will relate that to the Chancellor. We need a kick-start plan to open up businesses—to help them to open up when they start back again, probably at some time in March. Loans under the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme need to be repaid, but it should be done softly, and they should be extended if possible.

I want to make an appeal in particular for the music sector, which entertains people when they come to Northern Ireland. I think of great singers such as Sir Van Morrison and others. He coined the words:

“We are not in this together.”

I hope that we get back to being in it together, and that we will be able to get benefit for our hospitality sector.

Julian Lewis Portrait Dr Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
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The hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley) complained that it is rather cold in Westminster Hall today. I can recommend the House of Commons Library to him. It is an absolute furnace there, where I prepared the great oration that I was going to make, 90% of which is now going to be chucked because of the time limit. However, that is a measure of the importance of the debate, because so many people want to contribute to it. That is why our time is so limited.

When I last looked, more than 206,000 people had signed the petition, and the group with the highest number was people from the New Forest. In New Forest East alone almost 300 businesses are in the food and accommodation sectors, employing 4,000 people and constituting 10.8% of the working population. The hospitality industry is the UK’s largest employer of under 25-year-olds and, as the hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell) said in her able introduction, the importance, post Brexit, of our having an appealing environment for people to come and invest in cannot be overstated.

As the vaccine programme is implemented, one might reasonably expect the reintroduction of tiered restrictions on a gradually reducing basis. That is where the significance of adequate ministerial representation for the hospitality industry comes into play. For a sector of this size—the third largest in the UK—ranging from pubs through to restaurants and hotels, tourism and travel, not having a separate specialist and dedicated voice at the core of Government has led to a justified sense of disregard and discrimination.

Robin Hutson, who was mentioned earlier and who is my constituent, said, “It is our belief that we do not have a respected, truly invested senior Minister with deep sector knowledge, but who also has the power and the ear of the PM to effectively defend our corner.” It took more than four months for the Treasury to respond to one letter that I sent from a concerned constituent. Having a separate dedicated Minister would prevent that sort of delay. It would matter less that responsibilities are spread over more than one Department if only it were the same Minister who held the post in each Department. It is not uncommon to have a specialist Minister with a focused role in more than one Department. Initially, that could be on a temporary, emergency basis, as a hospitality industry recovery Minister. If it is found to work well during that phase, making it permanent might well be the logical next step.