Who Could be The Minister for Hospitality & What Would it Mean for Hospitality if the Upcoming Debate Next Week is Successful?

minister for hospitality

As we draw near to the on Monday the 11th January, The Chefs’ Forum talks to former Conservative MP for Blackpool North and political strategist Harold Elletson to find out the likely outcomes.

One of the problems that the hospitality industry faces is that having a debate on a potential minister is a first step. There is every chance that it won’t lead to anything especially at the moment with so much going on around it: Covid and Brexit being the two most obvious reasons.

However, as we discovered talking to Harold Elletson, the right tactics now could lead to a promising future for hospitality within government and starting to think like a politician is one way the hospitality industry can begin to bolster its case.

“The main point is that there is currently a Minister for Tourism and Leisure but he is very junior,” Elletson explained. “More than likely this will be the government response.

“The current Minister is Nigel Huddleston and, in spite of his lowly rank, his responsibilities include: Sport, Heritage, Tourism, Gambling, Lotteries, Commonwealth Games, Secondary Legislation, Culture and Sports & Arts sector recovery from COVID-19.

“Nigel Huddleston only has the rank of Parliamentary Under-Secretary (PUSS) within the Department for Culture (DCSS).  A PUSS is below a Minister of State, who is below the Secretary of State. So, as it stands, the minister closest to hospitality is, pretty much, the lowest of the low – in government terms.

“In other words, Huddleston already has huge responsibilities but no effective platform from which to promote them within Government. This means, crucially, that he can’t lobby the treasury effectively and won’t get taken seriously.

“What needs to happen is that hospitality should be more openly included in the portfolio, which should be upgraded to Minister of State or cabinet level. In my opinion, and I saw this a lot in my own time in Parliament and since, the debate on the 11th will be batted away by the Government because the Treasury will see a minister as inconvenient for them – ie, someone who’ll keep demanding money from them.

“It’s important to explain that it comes as the result of a public petition and that means that it won’t be either Government business or a private member’s bill. It’s more like an adjournment debate and it’ll probably take place in the committee room off Westminster Hall, rather than in the Commons chamber. It’ll be an opportunity for the industry to present its concerns. The Government will most probably listen and then do nothing.

“But this is just an opening salvo and the hospitality industry should not be discouraged. This is why there needs to be a more effective lobby. The debate will not be a waste of time. It could be the beginning of a new and more effective lobby but the industry will have to realise that they have to put their shoulder to the wheel.

“Hospitality leaders – including chefs – have got to convince the treasury, above all, that the entire sector is a hugely important part of the UK economy and that supporting it will ultimately result in an increase in revenue to the treasury. Hospitality should be thinking of its next move now – and not rely on the debate to get the conversation going.

“What the hospitality industry doesn’t realise is that it has a better opportunity to lobby than any industry I’ve known but it’s worse at it than almost any other sector. There are 17 bars in the Palace of Westminster, dining rooms in both the Lords and Commons, and cafes. There are also numerous restaurants, hotels, cafes and pubs, patronised by MPs and peers, throughout the Westminster area. That’s a hell of a lot of little embassies for the hospitality industry!”

One interesting area for the industry to ponder is who would be the right person for the job? Who would be the best Minister for Hospitality? We have isolated 7 MP’s who could be chosen for the role:

Tracey Crouch – MP for Chatham and Aylesford – MP since 2010 – Minister for Sport, Civil Society and Loneliness in 2017. Her resignation in 2018 due to delays in introduction of reduced limit on stakes of fixed betting terminals makes her an effective voice and one that could make a comeback under Boris Johnson.

Nigel Huddleston – Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism and Heritage – MP for Mid Worcester. Elected 2015. On the young side but in the job now.

Steve Baker – MP for Wycombe. Former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union. A big hitter capable of running a big department. He could be an outside bet if the hospitality lobby picks up speed.

John Whittingdale – Junior Minister of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport since 2020, having previously served at DCMS as Culture Secretary in the Cabinet from 2015 to 2016. MP for Maldon since 1992. An older veteran but someone with experience. The safe pair of hands?

The remaining three names are all on the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Hospitality & Tourism (H&T). These are younger MP’s on the rise but don’t count them out. They have ability and are all in the frame.

Stephen Double – MP for St Austell – MP since 2015 – Chair APPG H&T

Scott Mann – MP for North Cornwall – MP since 2015 Vice Chair APPG H&T

Michael Tomlinson – MP for. North Dorset – 2015 – Lord Commissioner (HM Treasury) (Whip) – Treasurer APPG H&T. As a Government Whip Tomlinson already has some government experience and could be a name discussed when the time comes.

Who do you think most suitable – Let’s all get involved?!

The Chefs’ Forum will be closely-following this story as it unfolds – Now’s the time to have your say!