The past year has been incredibly difficult for our hospitality industry and I know that there is real concern about the future of pubs and the hardship caused by the coronavirus outbreak. It is clear the economic effects of fighting the virus will last longer for businesses than the duration of any given restrictions, and we need to go further with our support.
I welcome the Prime Minister's announcement on the roadmap to reopening our country, which has endured difficult but necessary restrictions to save lives. I know just how eager pubs have been to fully reopen and I am delighted that these vital community assets have been able to begin trading again.
As I am sure you are aware, from 12 April, pubs have been able to reopen for outdoor table service with no requirement for a meal to be served with alcohol or a curfew in place. From 17 May, indoor hospitality can now once again take place as well. Under Step 4 of the roadmap, expected to take place no earlier than 21 June, all restrictions on social distancing are scheduled to be removed. This cautious approach has provided businesses with a sense of certainty for lifting restrictions over the spring months.
I am also pleased that the Government has announced that pavement licences will be extended for a further 12 months, making it easier and cheaper for pubs, restaurants and cafes to continue to make outdoor dining a reality with seating, tables and street stalls to serve food and drinks.
Recognising the difficult months which we have faced, it is good to see that the Budget laid out further financial support and relief for pubs. The business rates holiday is being extended for a further three months to the end of June 2021. This will be followed by 66 per cent business rates relief for the period from 1 July 2021 to 31 March 2022.
Restart Grants are also being made available worth up to £18,000 for hospitality, leisure, accommodation, personal care and gym businesses. The reduced VAT rate is being continued at 5 per cent until 30 September for hospitality, after which it will be at 12.5 per cent until 31 March 2022. Alcohol duty is being frozen for 2021-22 as well.
These measures come on top of the previous grants, reliefs and loans made available since the start of the pandemic. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until September to give people and businesses across the whole United Kingdom the certainty they need.
More generally, these moves build on the work the Government was doing, pre-pandemic, to help this vital sector. n 2013, the Government took the decision to end the beer duty escalator, and beer duty has been frozen or cut several times since then. Duty on spirits has been frozen over the past two years. As a result of these changes, a typical pint is cheaper than it would have been had these measures not been introduced. I share your concern about the future of pubs and the hardship caused by the coronavirus outbreak. The steps taken by HMRC to make it easier to claim back the duty on any beer thrown away as a result of pub closures were a timely and sensible intervention.
I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement that, for the second year running, alcohol duties will be frozen, covering duty on spirits, beer, wine, and cider which will save drinkers £1.7 billion.
I am encouraged that the Government and the Treasury recognise the importance of supporting our pubs and keeping costs down for customers. I welcome the Chancellor’s commitment in the recent Budget to extend this support. There is a broad recognition of the need to reform the current duty system to support the alcoholic drinks and pubs sector in the longer term, and on 1 October, a call for evidence for reform of Alcohol Duty was published.