I was pleased to speak in Parliament's debate on the hospitality industry and Covid-19 today. You can watch it here, or alternatively you can read the text of it below.
I’m a Devonian – born and bred.
When I think about my home county, I think about the breath-taking views on the South West Coast Path.
I think of the vast swathes of the Jurassic Coast, rolling countryside, Georgian seaside towns and beautiful villages stretching from Sidmouth to Exmouth.
But it isn’t just the views which make me smile.
It’s the warm welcome that visitors receive in our towns and villages – in the cafes, pubs, restaurants and hotels.
The hospitality industry is the lifeblood of East Devon’s towns and villages that I’m incredibly proud to represent.
There’s no doubt that without the financial support, many of the places residents and visitors enjoy simply wouldn’t be around to re-open their doors.
That financial support kept staff on the books, helped pay the rent, and paused other payments and bills.
I’m pleased the government will inject extra cash into the industry with restart grants as well as extending cuts to VAT and business rates.
We must continue to recognise how vital the hospitality industry is – and consider further steps to help the sector.
Everyone who works in the industry is an ambassador for the both my county and our country.
Straight after the Budget, I joined a call with hotel-owners in Sidmouth, who welcomed the measures the Chancellor announced.
However, recruitment and retention remains a challenge.
It’s quite right that this government wants businesses to invest in their domestic workforces – to train them up and improve local skills.
But it’s also about getting that message across that hospitality is a skilled and rewarding career.
Working in hospitality involves a positive attitude and a strong work ethic.
And I know many who started out in hospitality locally as a seasonal job to earn some extra money, have risen to become integral parts of management teams in these venues – or started a new venture with the experience they gained.
I will continue to work with businesses in East Devon on this and look at ways the government can ensure our new, fairer global immigration system works for them.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve raised the need for continued financial support for the hospitality industry with Ministers and on the floor of this House.
I’m glad they heard the calls and responded in the Budget.
People should have every confidence to go back into our cafés, pubs, restaurants and hotels when they re-open.
Whether that’s to meet friends and family, or just to have a quiet drink after what has been an exceptionally difficult year.
I’m sure everyone will be welcomed safely back to East Devon.