The Caterer covered the minister for hospitality debate in Parliament live as it unfolded.
Leading chefs, owners and hospitality workers, including Murano chef Angela Hartnett and founder of the Pig group of hotels Robin Hutson, have said a top government minister could help the UK bounce back strongly by harnessing the economic power of brilliant British pubs and restaurants when they reopen. Unlike other leading industries such as manufacturing, retail and aviation, hospitality does not have a dedicated minister.
17:58: Catherine McKinnell, Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne North, concludes 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".
17:56: Paul Scully, Conservative MP for Sutton and Cheam and minister for London, responds: "We do continue to work with the sector across government to ensure we can strike the right balance between the Covid-19 restrictions and the corresponding business support measures". He says he recognises the importance of the hospitality sector to local areas, communities and the country as a whole, however BEIS and DCMS work closely to ensure the sector is effectively represented within government and it is not in his power to create the new role, that lies with the prime minister. He continues: "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 emphasises the government is committed to maintaining support for the sector.
17:37: Lucy Powell, MP for Manchester Central, says the petition reflects the government "just isn't getting hospitality in all its forms", the sector needs "better leadership, focus and understanding".
17:24: John Spellar (Labour MP for Warley) says the fact there were two petitions "shows how important this is", says the petition is "perfectly understandable because it [hospitality] falls between different departments, it represents hundreds of thousands of establishments, and it falls between the bureaucratic cracks" and it "needs someone to be their champion in Whitehall… they need someone to understand the whole economic ecosystem and join up the dots". Adds a hospitality minister would have understood the "chaos and waste" resulting from last-minute closures.
17:21: Steve Double, Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay and chair for the APPG for hospitality and tourism, says: "I actually believe we have a minister for hospitality. It may not actually be in his name, but I know from my work with him that he has always been available to me and colleagues to address concerns of the sector and has worked closely with the sector. Although I recognise the call for the minister to have the term hospitality in his name, I don't quite accept the premise that we don't have a minister for hospitality because we very much do."
17:05: Dr Julian Lewis, Conservative MP for New Forest East, says for a sector of this size to not have ministerial representation, "not having a separate specialist has led to a justified sense of disregard and discrimination". He says "it's not uncommon to have a specialist minister" across more than one departments, and suggests a temporary hospitality industry recovery minister role which, if found to be working well, could become permanent.
16:56: Dr Rupa Huq, Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton, says a minister for hospitality would give the sector "a proper say rather than always being an afterthought, to suffer the consequences of the latest failed experiment".
16:53: Greg Clark, Conservative MP for Tunbridge Wells, says: "These are businesses that pay their way and if they manage to survive they will thrive in the future and help repay the sums that have been set aside these last few months."
16:46: McKinnell adds "it's important that we have that input from the hospitality sector... so as to not repeat the mistakes that were made in the summer of 2020". Highlights that hospitality is caught between "two crowded departments" (BEIS and DCMS) which "creates an incentive for passing the buck between departments, which reinforces the case for a minister for hospitality". She says: "We must at least recognise that the sector needs a strong voice in government with a genuine recognition of its diversity and greater engagement with businesses and a much deeper understand of the ways in which they are affected by lockdown measures."
16:40: Labour MP for Newcastle North Catherine McKinnell says there is a "lack of deep understanding of the sector on the government's part" and "it's clear that the government would do a lot better if it stopped seeing it [the industry] as amenable to a one size fits all approach".
Photo: Flickr - UK Parliament