Hospitality leaders criticise drafted terms for inquiry into the UK Government's response to Covid-19

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

Industry representatives are calling for scrutiny of the effects of restrictions placed on on hospitality over the past two years, as the terms of reference of an independent inquiry into the government's response to Covid-19 were drafted last week

The public consultation on the inquiry’s terms of reference dealt with 150 bereaved families and representatives of various groups and trade bodies across many sectors of the economy. The final terms will be set in May before the inquiry formally begins.

This will result in a report designed "to examine the UK’s preparedness and response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and to learn lessons for the future," according to the inquiring body's website.

'It cannot become the standard or expected response of the government to entirely shut down the hospitality sector'

Punch Taverns founder Hugh Osmond, The Warehouse Project and Parklife festival founder Sacha Lord, and Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) have criticised the draft, calling for a more in-depth assessment of the “wide-reaching damage” caused by restrictions on the hospitality sector.

In a statement, they said: “The inquiry will need to consider the level of understanding of the industry demonstrated by decision-makers during the pandemic, and whether those in power took into account the practical considerations for businesses within the sector, as well as the operating differences between the different business types." 

"It cannot become the standard or expected response of the government to entirely shut down the hospitality sector on each occasion there is a further covid wave, or in the event of future pandemics or civil emergencies, unless it can be said with a high degree of certainty that the benefits of doing so sufficiently outweigh the costs and harms caused as a result, and that is not currently the case," they added.

They believe that scrutiny of specific measures - like the 10pm curfew, the 'substantial meal' rule and enforced table service - should be looked at as part of the process, and have asked that a framework be drawn up to set the terms in the event of any future proposals to place restrictions on the industry.

Furthermore, they have called for an interim report to measure the economic damage suffered by the hospitality industry, as they fear that in the time it will take for the government's inquiry to culiminate, more measures could be enacted that negatively affect business' ability to operate - and thus the value of investment in the sector. 

"If complete closure of the industry becomes the expected response, the sector will become un-investable. The importance of the timing of such a report is crucial. If the inquiry waits until the end of its process before producing a report, further waves of covid may have hit, and it may already be too late for the sector to recover.”

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 22nd April 2022

Hospitality leaders criticise drafted terms for inquiry into the UK Government's response to Covid-19