Sir Iain Duncan Smith calls on the Prime Minister to review again the dates for reopening up the inside of pubs and restaurants as up to half the businesses in the hospitality sector are considering closing.
First, can I congratulate the Prime Minister on his incredibly bold decision last year? It is due to that and getting the vaccines roll-out going that we are now looking at the eventual end to this covid nightmare, so he deserves all the plaudits he gets for that and more. I agree with his caution in this roll-out and going back to being unlocked, but I just say to him that the hospitality sector is a very big employer of the poorest in society and it is they who have suffered the most in terms of incomes. Nearly half of those businesses are talking about closing, so I wonder whether he would feel it possible to review again the nature of opening up inside those restaurants and pubs, to check that there is no real risk beyond that for any of the other elements he is opening up and, if that is the case, to take that bold decision as and when the data dictates it?
I thank my right hon. Friend for what he said just now. I totally understand where he is coming from and the urgency of those in the hospitality sector who want to open up as soon as possible, as indeed we all do. Everybody in this House wants that to happen, but we also understand the risk of another surge and the consequent risk of a fourth lockdown, which I do not think anybody wants to see, least of all the businesses concerned. What we have in this road map are dates—admittedly, they are “not before” dates—to which businesses can now work: 12 April for outdoor hospitality, 17 May for indoor hospitality. That gives at least some certainty. I think, in this very, very difficult time, with these difficult trade-offs, people would be prepared to trade some urgency and some haste for more certainty and more reliability, and that is what we aim to give.