It is a long time since the hospitality industry had something to be collectively pleased about. Yesterday afternoon that changed as Graham Stringer MP, Chair of the parliamentary debate to create a Minister for Hospitality in the UK Government, ended the debate with the announcement: “The ayes have it.”
On 6 October 2020 Claire Bosi, Editor, Chef & Restaurant Magazine created a petition to Parliament to host the Minister for Hospitality debate, requiring 100,000 signatures to be considered. By 16 December, the signature target was achieved, and the debate confirmed for 11 January 2021.
Yesterday afternoon the debate was held and viewed live via Parliament TV.
Graham Stringer MP opened the debate as Chair and introduced the first speaker, Catherine McKinnell, Labour MP for Newcastle North.
McKinnell immediately called for support for the motion and very early in her opening ‘gave way’ to Tobias Ellwood Conservative MP for Bournemouth East. Ellwood said that he “absolutely supported the call and/or an Envoy for Hospitality.
McKinnell continued with eloquence, and she knew her subject, her husband works in hospitality. Her emphasis on cash flow and economics demonstrated an understanding of many of the issues the industry faces. She explained the difficulties of switching an industry on and off, and suggested that a deeper understanding of hospitality was required from Government to assist more effectively.
McKinnell covered the full breadth of sectors within hospitality including suppliers and the difficulties now faced within a complex and integrated supply chain. She also looked at consumer demand and the speed at which it will return, slowly, and how adjustment to this is key to re-opening.
There were 20 MP’s in total that took part in the debate and to listen to hospitality being discussed with such passion and knowledge for 90 minutes was a revelation and a privilege. Many parts of England were represented as was Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
An outstanding starter course was served by Catherine McKinnell, and many MPs followed to make up the main course, but the signature dish of the day was without doubt delivered by Lucy Powell MP, Labour, Manchester Central.
Powell like McKinnell knew her subject and was equally as eloquent, with no fuss she set about her topic that clearly had been meticulously researched and prepared. Covering the full scope and scale of hospitality and every sector and sub-sector within it.
The close of the session saw a unanimous vote in favour on the motion to create a Minister for Hospitality in the UK Government recognised by Chair Graham Stringer Labour MP, Blackley and Broughton.
We spoke with Claire Bosi shortly after the close of the debate who was thoroughly delighted with the debate’s proceedings and outcome telling us: “I am thrilled with the unanimous support shown by MPs today as the petition to government was debated. The resounding opinions mirrored that of our industry – we need and deserve a dedicated minister for hospitality – as one MP stated “to champion the sector within Whitehall”.
“In particular, Catherine McKinnel and Lucy Powell offered strength and eloquence to the debate, passionate in their speeches, with a true understanding of the hospitality industry’s needs.
“Today was a giant step for the hospitality industry. When was the last time that our sector secured over 90 minutes of parliamentary focus ? But this is the first step. The emphasis now is on maximising today’s result and making sure this is seen through to the end and reaching the conclusion we need.”
Kate Nicholls OBE, CEO, UKHospitality was similarly pleased saying: “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. It was particularly pleasing to hear parts of the sector like nightclubs, wedding venues and conference centres being lauded – businesses that have not grabbed headlines in the way that other sectors have, but are no less important, as the debate recognised. There was also welcome recognition for our critical supply chain.
“It is striking that, in the end, the petition got more than 200,000 signatures. We all understand the importance of what we do and it is good to see the Government recognise the importance of working closely with the sector to ensure that we are properly supported, not just during this crisis but more generally.”
Harry Murray MBE, Chairman, Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa has been a champion of Bosi’s petition since it started, so we also caught up with Murray to gauge his view of the debate, enthused by the outcome Murray told us: “An encouraging and positive debate and Catherine McKinnell exceeded all expectations and making it very clear we a Minister who understands our industry.
“Lucy Powell also spoke eloquently and positively highlighting the need for LEADERSHIP with a road map a stronger voice and to stop the sticking plaster and the scatter gun approach. I was pleased to see Tobias Ellwood supporting the bill, he was former under minister of Tourism and would be an ideal Minister of Hospitality.
“All the issues we have discussed were covered like – 5% VAT, Business Rates holiday extended to end of the year, No NI on furlough pay, help for those with cash-flow problems were covered during the debate and the devastating damage to many businesses that will not reopen.
“Although 206,000 signatures were achieved it is still only 6% of the number of people employed in the industry, I was also disappointed to see, if I am correct only 415 people watched the most important debate in the history of our industry and what could turn out to be a major turning point in our future. I hope more people will watch the debate and it is a wake-up call for the industry on what we can be achieved with the right support and with a seat at the table.
“Although the Ayes have it in terms of going forward I think the Government have far more pressing issue with Covid Crisis, Brexit and the struggling economy so not over optimistic Boris will be quick to respond to the demands for a Minister of Hospitality.
“Time to regroup and reflect on what has been achieved and to focus on MP’s like Catherine McKinnell and Lucy Powell especially MP’s in areas where the economy is dependant on tourism. We must use today’s debate as a springboard and come back with an even stronger campaign.”
The foodservice sector of our industry was brought into the campaign en masse by Wendy Bartlett, executive chairman, Bartlett Mitchell through an open letter from the UK catering industry backing Minister for Hospitality.
So, of course we spoke with Bartlett after the debate closed and she explained her take on the event by saying: “I’m pleased that this key issue has been debated in parliament and that the need for a dedicated minister has been recognised. The whole exercise has been a good example of what can be achieved if the industry pulls together. Whilst these discussions are welcome, the real progress will be determined by what happens next. Hospitality is a significant employer, we are going to play a crucial role in how the wider UK economy recovers post-Covid.”
When Claire Bosi created a petition to Parliament to host the Minister for Hospitality debate most in our industry weren’t even aware that she had done so, we can all now be grateful that she did.
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Hospitality & Catering News: “The ayes have it” as Minister for Hospitality passes first hurdle – 12 January 2021 – “The ayes have it” as Minister for Hospitality passes first hurdle
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