I know this is a worrying a time for many businesses. In May, I spoke with the Chancellor on a conference call and raised the need for as much flexibility as possible to allow the hospitality sector to operate their current businesses in an outdoor setting. This was an issue raised with me by local businesses from that sector, and I was happy to raise this with the Chancellor directly.
This week, I was pleased to welcome the Second Reading of the Business and Planning Bill which will make it easier for pubs, restaurants and cafes to serve customers outdoors, helping them get back on their feet and allowing customers to safely drink and dine outside.
This Bill will simplify and reduce the costs of the licensing process for outdoor seating and stalls. Pubs and restaurants will be able to use car parks and terraces as dining and drinking areas, using their existing seating licenses. Temporary changes to licensing laws will also allow more licensed premises to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises - meaning that customers can consume their drinks elsewhere, making social distancing easier.
These measures will give an immediate and much needed boost to many businesses in the Forest of Dean, whilst supporting them to successfully reopen over the summer.
I have been encouraged by the way retail businesses in the Forest of Dean are opening in a Covid-secure way, having visited shops in Cinderford and Newent already, I look forward to visiting businesses in Lydney, Coleford and elsewhere in the constituency over the coming weeks.
Finally, some may have seen misleading media reports about a vote on testing NHS staff last week. The Opposition motion would have seen MPs dictate testing for NHS staff instead of testing determined by clinical experts including the Chief Medical Officer. I am not ‘against regular testing of NHS staff’, I am in favour of NHS staff testing policy as advised by clinical experts including the Chief Medical Officer as it is currently – seeing all NHS staff with symptoms being prioritised for testing, along with regular testing of asymptomatic NHS staff in high risk areas.