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PM promises u-turn on support for hospitality trade

Published:  30 November, 2020

Boris Johnson is set to offer more support to pubs and restaurants, the Daily Telegraph is reporting.

"We understand the fact that the hospitality industry has been particularly hard-hit during the pandemic. The Christmas period is a time of year when establishments would expect to be particularly busy so we are looking at how we can support them over the festive period,” a government source told the newspaper.

The recently announced three-tier system, to come into effect when the lockdown ends this week, will see almost all of England in either Tier 2 or Tier 3.

In both tiers, hospitality businesses will face significantly tougher trading restrictions than under the previous three-tier system that was in place prior to the second national lockdown.

Businesses in Tier 3 can only offer a takeaway service, while those in Tier 2 can only serve drinks to accompany a substantial meal.

The government has stated that consumers must leave the premises as soon as the meal is completed.

UK Hospitality, the trade body for the hospitality trade, reports that 94% of its members will be unviable or trading at a loss under the proposed restrictions.

Kate Nicholls, CEO of UK Hospitality, has threatened legal action if the government fails to reassess its approach. “We will consider our options in terms of the legal next steps,” she told the newspaper.

“All the way through, we have had arbitrary and discriminatory decisions being made. It’s quite clear that Boris Johnson has singled out hospitality to keep other sectors open.

“If it’s going to be such an arbitrary and discriminatory decision, we need robust evidence to justify it,” she said.

It has been reported that government scientists believe the Covid-19 virus does not spread effectively in well-ventilated spaces.

The government’s apparent u-turn on further support for the hospitality sector is the result of a substantial backbench rebellion of between 70 and 100 Tory MPs.

The House of Commons will vote on the new measures tomorrow. The size of the Tory rebellion could leave the government reliant on support from the Labour Party to get its Bill passed.

The opposition has yet to make a public statement on the latest proposals, but has previously called for the government to offer more financial support for businesses hit by the pandemic.

Mark Harper, chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory backbenchers which is co-ordinating the rebellion, has welcomed the government’s change of heart.

“I welcome the fact that the government has recognised our concerns about the enormous impact that its proposals will have on the hospitality industry and has suggested further support,” Harper said in a statement.

“We look forward to seeing the detail of the support proposed being set out before the vote on the restrictions tomorrow evening, along with the cost-benefit analysis we’ve been asking for.”