Catherine McKinnell, Member of Parliament for Newcastle North and Chair of the influential House of Commons Petitions Committee has led a debate in Parliament calling for the creation of a dedicated Minister for Hospitality.

The debate was called in response to an online petition started by Claire Bosi, editor of ‘Chef and Restaurant’ Magazine, and has been signed by almost 200,000 signatures.

The petition speaks to a concern of many that Government lacks a true understanding of the nature of the hospitality industry and its diversity. The petitioners argue that the industry needs a seat at the table and has called on the Government to create a Minister for Hospitality – who will be the voice of the sector at the heart of Government.

Speaking after the debate Catherine said:

“Newcastle’s own hospitality sector has something for everyone: restaurants offering everything from hearty traditional Geordie pub grub to innovative fine dining, hipster-style hang outs for craft beer and gourmet burgers, and a thriving street food scene. Our nightlife is of course famous in its own right and is regularly featured in guides and magazines as one of the top places to go for an unforgettable night out.

“The industry representatives have been clear that existing support is not enough to cover the costs of many businesses and won’t underpin long-term viability. We need a longer-term plan to help businesses plan their survival while the vaccine is rolled out.”

“It is one of the few industries to reach every part of the country and will be crucial to our recovery from the present crisis. Yet, unlike the Arts or Sport, it has no dedicated Minister.”

The hospitality industry is the third largest UK employer, responsible for around 3 million jobs, generating £130billon in activity, and resulting in £38billon of Government revenue through taxation.

The situation remains immensely challenging for all. A recent UKHospitality study found that 41% of sector businesses thought they would fail by mid-2021. Only one in five thought they would have enough cash flow to survive beyond February.

Catherine added:

“Petitioners don’t expect to go back to dining out, dancing in nightclubs and checking into hotels straight away. The public health situation is at a critical point and saving lives must clearly take precedence.

“What they do want to see is a greater understanding of the diverse nature of the sector and a strong voice for it in Government. Above all, like all of us, they want this country’s mix of pubs, hotels, restaurants, and clubs that do so much to enrich our lives, to still be standing when this crisis is over.

“Having a minister at the heart of Government standing up for the industry is a must, I hope the Government will look favourably on the petitioner’s request.”

You can watch Catherine’s contributions to the debate here: