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Conservative MPs Say Extra Coronavirus Support Is Needed for Hospitality Industry

85 MPs ask Rishi Sunak for further business rates relief, an extension of the furlough scheme, and a VAT rebate

Michaël Protin/Eater London

A group of 85 MPs have written to chancellor Rishi Sunak asking for further support to aid the recovery of the hospitality and tourism industries which have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter, written by Totnes MP Anthony Mangnall, praises the measures already introduced by the government — including the furlough scheme, rent and rate relief, and access to loans and grants — but says that more specific support is now needed, especially once lockdown restrictions are eased and the current support measures expire (at the end of June).

Noting a recent survey that found the majority of hospitality businesses had failed to receive grants, as well as the difficulties those businesses have faced in trying to access special loan schemes, the letter requests and extension to the business rate relief (all high street business are not liable to pay any rates on their property until next year), an extension to the furlough scheme, as well as the introduction of a so-called “flexi-furlough”, which gives employers the opportunity to protect jobs in the event of a part-reopening, as well as VAT rebate.

Mangall 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.”

It follows a series of reality checks for restaurants and other businesses in the leisure and hospitality sectors over the last fortnight — in which the consequences of long-term social distancing measures and customer caution have made it clear that there will be no return to normal. Those realisations have encouraged trade bodies to present detailed strategies for reopening, pressure groups to identify the most urgent forms of necessary intervention, and high-profile chefs and restaurateurs to emphasise the need to treat hospitality as a special case — especially in the case of rents.

It also follows the launch of an All-Party Parliamentary Group for Hospitality and Tourism which is seeking to understand how to help businesses in these sectors recover from the crisis in concert with those inside and representing the industry.

The government will announce its lockdown easing strategy this week and is expected to announce its plans for businesses attempting to recover from the crisis. Restaurant and pub owners across London and the U.K. are anxiously awaiting details of both.