Many constituents have contacted me about the night-time economy and ‘Plan B’ COVID-19 measures, including certification for access to nightclubs.

I supported the additional measures outlined by the Government as part of its Plan B to contain the spread of Omicron, but I do appreciate the very difficult situation facing the sector and its impact on people’s lives, livelihoods and liberties.

I welcome the fact 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 which could have shut down our cultural sector and collapsed the economy once again. I do however recognise that growing reticence to go out on the part of the public has had a big impact.

I assure you I do not want these regulations to be 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 go under 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 should 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 to press the Government on this.

Hilary Benn
MP for Leeds Central

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