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The Fight for Political Representation for Restaurants Reaches Westminster

It will take place in Westminster Hall, meaning no vote on the issue

A view of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben over the Thames
The Minister for Hospitality petition has amassed over 200,000 signatures before its Westminster debate

MPs will debate a 200,000 strong petition for a minister to represent restaurants

MPs will debate the case for a government minister to represent restaurants, pubs, bars, and cafes at 4:30 p.m. today, 11 January. The right to debate the issue was earned by a petition that has now amassed over 200,000 signatures, and has been backed by famous chefs across the country.

The petition began in autumn, as a response to hospitality’s lack of political power when lobbying the government for coronavirus support. It has escalated over the last few months, with more and more chefs like Angela Hartnett, Jeremy Lee, and Yotam Ottolenghi calling for political representation for a sector that is the third biggest employer in the country.

This debate is not in the House of Commons, but Westminster Hall. Under this format, an MP is nominated to present the case, and will call speeches from other MPs to add context to the debate. Once those speeches have been heard, a government Minister — likely Kwasi Kwarteng — will respond to them, with MPs who have already spoken able to debate that response. There will be no vote on the petition, and there will be no guarantee that it will enter the House of Commons later.

The U.K. hospitality world’s limited representation has been an albatross throughout this crisis, with U.K. Hospitality’s lobbying power seriously restricted. While some restaurateurs have said that they fear government representation would just lead to incompetent policy, ministerial positions don’t go away as governments change, and other shut down sectors — like theatre — were able to secure large funds through ministerial representation that hospitality was not. Indeed, the lack of government representation has contributed to the direction of U.K. Hospitality’s lobbying, which — outside of appealing for job support — has focussed on appealing for restaurants and pubs to stay open and fully exploit grey areas around business meetings and takeaway pints, because there is not a secure financial foundation for them to fall back on when closed.

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