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Parliamentary hospitality debate shows cross-party sector support

Published:  12 January, 2021

The debate on whether to create a minister for hospitality in the UK government showed cross-party support for the struggling sector, with an overwhelmingly positive response from all corners.

Held yesterday afternoon, the debate was the result of the success of the ‘Seat at the Table’ petition, which was launched by hotelier Robin Hutson in early December, calling for the creation of a minister for hospitality.

Backed by UK Hospitality (UKH) and spearheaded by leading chefs, the petition exceeding its target of 100,000 signatures in mid-December, meaning parliament had to consider the topic for debate. 

Catherine McKinnell, Labour MP for Newcastle North, who led the 90 minute debate, said there was a “lack of deep understanding of the sector on the government's part”, adding that it was “clear the government would do a lot better if it stopped seeing the industry as amenable to a one size fits all approach”.

She also highlighted how, unlike other leading industries such as manufacturing, retail and aviation, hospitality was “caught between two crowded departments”, with representation in parliament currently split between two arms of government.

This, she said, created an incentive for “passing the buck between departments, which reinforces the case for a minister for hospitality”.

Responding, Paul Scully, Conservative MP for Sutton and Cheam and minister for London, said it was “not within my gift to create a new ministerial post, that power rests with the Prime Minister”.

"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 minister for hospitality as a single entity, we do need to ensure 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,” he added.

McKinnell concluded by saying the government "should want to get this right and should want to engage with the hospitality industry in the maximum way possible, and so a seat the table and that strong voice for the hospitality industry would be in the government's interest to put in place".

Welcoming the debate, UKH said it had highlighted the "importance" of the sector and an “overwhelming” backing for additional supportive measures.

“There was a clear and highly encouraging demonstration of strong cross-party support for an extension of the VAT cut and the business rates holiday. These are going to be crucial if we hope to see businesses survive the year,” said Kate Nicholls, CEO, UKH.  

Announcing an extension of both of these policies, at the earliest possible opportunity, would provide some “much-needed stability for our sector” and allow businesses to begin planning, she added. 

Equally clear, she said, was it that “a great many MPs” recognised that this additional support would be necessary if the sector was to “survive and lead the national revival”.

“It was incredibly positive to hear so many MPs being vocal advocates of the hospitality sector. There was unanimous recognition of our importance economically and socially. 

The ‘Seat at the Table’ petition had exceeded 200,000 signatures ahead of yesterday’s debate.