Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about the wedding industry and coronavirus.
I appreciate the concerns you raise and the desperate situation many working in the sector are facing. An estimated three in ten weddings have already been affected by the pandemic and another 150,000 due to take place this year face cancellation or postponement because of coronavirus restrictions. As a result, the industry faces estimated losses of around £6.4 billion.
It is therefore vital that the Government comes forward with an urgent plan to rescue the industry so businesses and workers can safely help couples celebrate their special occasion in front of family and friends. Unfortunately, I am concerned that the Government has neglected the sector and lacks an effective plan for ending the shutdown. This poses a real threat to jobs and livelihoods in the industry and risks the mass cancellation of weddings if venues and companies are allowed to collapse.
The Government states that it is working with the industry to explore how larger weddings and celebrations can be resumed in a COVID-secure way, when safe to do so. It also states that the Competition and Markets Authority is engaging with the sector as part of its investigation into cancellations and refunds during the pandemic and is likely to provide some further advice for the sector on how to comply with consumer law. In addition, it highlights the general economic support measures available to businesses, including the furlough scheme and state-backed loans.
I am concerned though that the current one-size-fits-all approach to providing economic support ignores that this is a sectoral economic crisis that requires sector-specific support. It does not make sense that support for the wedding sector through the furlough scheme is being withdrawn at the same rate for businesses in the wedding sector that have been hit by scores of postponed and cancelled plans as for companies in sectors that are seeing a return to normality. I believe the Government must end its blanket approach to ending furlough support and provide targeted assistance to the hardest hit sectors, such as the wedding industry.