Can’t quite believe there isn’t one already, to be honest…
Right! Hospitality is, currently, the country’s fifth largest sector; it employs more than three million people; and generates around £130bn in activity the economy every year, and £38bn in taxation. Yet somehow it remains without proper representation in Parliament. But this campaign is hoping to change all that.
Tell me more
Organised by Claire Bosi, editor of trade publication Chef & Restaurant Magazine, the campaign calls for a dedicated Minister for Hospitality to be created ‘for the current, and successive governments’. A petition hosted on the Parliament petition website has so far received just over 65,700 signatures, but needs at least 100,000 names for there to be a chance of it being debated by MPs. In order to attain the number of signatures required, hotelier Robin Hutson this week launched #Seatatthetable – a 30-day social media initiative that’s backed by the likes of Angela Hartnett, Jamie Oliver Tom Kerridge and Fred Sirieix, and designed to engage hospitality employees and encourage them to back the campaign. Hutson has also written directly to Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking him to short circuit the petition process and appoint a Minister for Hospitality at the January reshuffle.
Who is currently charged with being a voice for hospitality in Government?
Currently issues are usually addressed by either Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden or Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey. However, it’s fair to argue that neither have done a particularly good job at either listening or articulating the thoughts and feelings of the industry during the course of the pandemic. Indeed, the sector has become something of a scapegoat for the crisis, saddled with crippling restrictions and extended lockdowns without specific scientific evidence to justify the measures or any great targeted financial support to help businesses survive the storm.
Even if the petition does reach its target, is there any real guarantee the Government will take it into account?
Who’s to say. Johnson and his team appear to be doing everything in their power to block out the cries of anguish and anger projected by those who work in and support the sector at the moment. That said, though, news yesterday (9 December) that a cross-party group of MPs and peers have come together to establish an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the night-time economy – an intrinsic part of the wider hospitality sector that has been absolutely battered by the Covid crisis – suggests that there is an appetite to try and make amends for the damage caused by the pandemic.
Presumably if a Minster for Hospitality were installed, though, it wouldn’t be some sort of silver bullet?
Definitely not, but it would be a start. Any Minister for Hospitality would have to be an MP, meaning the portfolio would likely be handed to someone like Oliver Dowden or Thérèse Coffey. And while having a voice in cabinet would allow the sector more opportunity to have its plight heard, much more lobbying will also be needed at a grass roots level if those in power are to truly get a greater understanding of the challenges facing those in the industry.
Still, as you say, it would be a start. How do I show my support?
You can begin by signing the petition, which you’ll find here. Those who work in the industry are also encouraged to reach out to fellow employees for support, and try to engage suppliers in the campaign. And, of course, you can also showcase your support on social media by using the hashtag #Seatatthetable.