UK chefs campaign for more political clout

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Chefs Paul Ainsworth, Angela Hartnett and Marcus WareingImage source, PA / Getty Images
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Chefs Paul Ainsworth, Angela Hartnett and Marcus Wareing are among those leading the campaign

A group of the UK's top chefs are urging the government to create a minister for hospitality to defend their interests during the pandemic.

Chefs including Marcus Wareing, Angela Hartnett and Paul Ainsworth, are asking supporters to sign an online petition.

They say their industry should have the same representation in Parliament as the arts and sports.

This would have been beneficial during what had been "an exceptionally trying six months" for the sector, they said.

"Policy has been made and unmade without consulting those that are impacted most," said campaign organiser Claire Bosi.

Ms Bosi, who is the editor of trade publication Chef & Restaurant Magazine, said: "Our country is renowned for having a hospitality sector that is synonymous with excellence, innovation and inspiration.

"As such a vital part of both the country's economy and reputation, it seems fair that we, like other sectors, are given a representative voice in Parliament."

"We understand how much the hospitality sector contributes to our economy and society," said a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

"That's why we have taken decisive action to support the sector from the start of the outbreak, including the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, business rates relief and billions in grants, tax deferrals and loans.

"On top of this we have just announced further support through our Winter Economy Plan which will continue to help the industry through the months ahead."

"Vital"

The group described hospitality as "a vital part of both the country's economy and reputation", providing three million jobs, generating £130bn in activity and contributing £38bn in taxation annually.

However, it had been "impacted heavily by Covid19 and the government's thoughtless policy and communication surrounding the pandemic".

Although restaurants were able to benefit from the government's Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme during August, the initiative came after months of lost trade during lockdown.

Job loss fears

"Lockdown and the government's contradictory communication around it was the start of many difficulties for the industry, with the introduction of a curfew across the country the latest," the group said.

"With no representation in Parliament, the government was ill-equipped to assess the potential damages of its policy, or the ways in which these might have been mitigated."

A minister for hospitality would be able to listen to the industry's concerns on taxation and legislation and bring forward its suggestions to policymakers, the chefs said.

The campaign is the latest cry for help from the hospitality industry, amid growing fears of what will happen to employment in the sector when the government's furlough scheme finishes at the end of this month.

Earlier this week, the head of UK Hospitality, Kate Nicholls, told MPs that pubs and restaurants faced a "cliff edge", with far more jobs likely to be cut than previously thought.