Some 85 Conservative MPs have gathered their forces to press the chancellor for enhanced support to protect the UK’s troubled hospitality businesses. In a letter signed by almost a quarter of the Tory government’s parliamentary representation, Rishi Sunak will not need to read between the lines to recognise the challenge this poses to his mantra of ‘we will do whatever it takes’.
A total of 85 Conservative MPs – more than the government’s landslide majority in the House of Commons – have written to the chancellor, calling for a new support package for the tourism and hospitality sectors in wake of the Covid–19 pandemic.
While the government has introduced measures to help keep businesses afloat, including the furlough scheme and business loans, what constitutes a significant Tory lobby is arguing that more specific support is needed.
The letter to Mr Sunak, organised by Anthony Mangnall, the new MP for Totnes in tourist-dependent south Devon, calls for an increase in the business rates relief threshold for these sectors, an extension of the furlough scheme and for a VAT rebate. The development follows the launch of an inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Hospitality and Tourism on how to help businesses weather the crisis, while a recent survey found that just one-quarter of eligible businesses had received a hospitality grant.
Anthony Mangnall said: “Businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector were some of the first to close due to Coronavirus and in many cases are expected to be some of the last to reopen after lockdown. While the government’s existing support schemes are very welcome, we are asking for further measures to support these vital sectors and to provide a more tailored approach to safeguarding jobs, livelihoods and these vital industries.”
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Hospitality was originally founded in November 2018, as a rebrand of the previous APPG for the Visitor Economy. Following the 2019 General Election, the APPG for Hospitality and Tourism was created. Its current inquiry, ‘Pathways to Recovery’, is an urgent analysis into the measures that businesses will need in order to successfully reopen, recover, and thrive in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis. The key focus of the inquiry is an assessment of what’s needed to get hospitality businesses back on their feet at the appropriate time, providing forward-looking recommendations to guide government and businesses as they move to thinking about recovery. The consultation questions looked broadly at what support measures businesses would like to see from government, while also looking at the internal and operational challenges that businesses face when looking to reopen. According to the APPG the four key themes of the report relate to: government support; business compliance; supply chain reactivation and stimulating demand for the sector.
UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls confirmed: “Our sector is in a unique position to begin the rebuilding process, both economically and socially, once we emerge and the time is right. This inquiry will focus on how we get restarted rather than necessarily when. It is clear we will only be able to recover if the right plan is in place, the government understands the scale of the task and the opportunities it presents, and the correct support is provided – particularly the extension of the job retention scheme to protect jobs and wages.”
The pressing nature of the challenges facing the sector means that an already tight publication deadline of mid-May may well be brought forward in order to feed findings into government while important discussions on recovery are being held.