Thank you for contacting me about the night-time economy and ‘Plan B’ COVID-19 response measures, including certification for access to nightclubs. I appreciate that there are strongly held views on both sides of this debate.
I will always act in the best interests of our NHS, our public health and our nation. I therefore supported the additional measures outlined by the Government as part of its Plan B to contain the spread of COVID-19. However, I did not do so lightly and recognise that restrictions have an enormous impact on people’s lives, livelihoods and liberties.
I have consistently argued against any wide-ranging rollout of certification based on vaccination status alone. I welcome that people have the option of presenting a negative test as an alternative to certification, and I believe COVID passes can help to support businesses by giving people the confidence to go out and allow venues to operate at higher capacity. Without these measures – and with rising infections and more hospitalisations – we could have risked seeing the Government forced to impose more draconian measures on these sectors, shutting down our cultural sector and collapsing the economy once again.
I assure you I do not want these regulations in place longer than is necessary. And I agree that it is vital that the Government recognises the economic and human impact of these restrictions on the most affected sectors and provides venues and businesses with commensurate support.
Business support should have been announced alongside the introduction of Plan B, yet it took the Chancellor a week to come forward with a holding package. During this time, businesses were facing a wave of cancellations, rising costs and staff shortages, without proper engagement from Government on how the necessary restrictions resulting from Omicron would affect them.
Viable businesses should not be lost permanently because of COVID, and workers should not pay the price for temporary measures to tackle the Omicron variant. On top of the one-off grant for businesses impacted by Omicron, the Government should also consider additional measures to support those worst-affected, including extending business grants, deferring tax payments due in the new year, and other sector specific support in hard hit sectors such as ensuring adequate insurance for the events industry. The Government must also assess what impact ending the reduced rate of VAT will have on jobs and businesses in the sector. I can assure you that I will continue to support efforts, through voting and parliamentary processes, to press the Government on this.