Julian Knight's Westminster Diary, 16/07/20

Solihull Mail

Lockdown has posed an extraordinary challenge to this country. Individuals and businesses alike have had to adapt to a very different way of life.

It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been especially difficult for parts of the cultural sector – and as Chairman of Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee, I’ve been fighting to get them the help they need.

Since the Committee’s inquiry into the impacts of Covid-19 was launched in April, it quickly became clear that the arts and culture sectors would need tailored support.

Whilst many shops and even restaurants are now able to re-open, theatres and concert venues face the prospect of being closed for a long time yet. It just isn’t practical to operate them with social distancing in place.

It’s therefore vital that the Government does everything necessary to make sure they can stay afloat until things improve and give urgent attention to finding innovative ways to let them re-open.

The £1.57 billion support package announced by the Culture Secretary last week is a good starting point. I wrote to him personally and made the case for it to Channel 4 and the BBC. But it can’t be the end of the story.

Last week I twice spoke in the House of Commons to ask Caroline Dinenage, the Culture and Digital Minister, about what further measures the Government will introduce to support the arts, and to get our world-leading TV and film production industry back on its feet.

I’m extremely proud of how we have helped to broaden access to the arts since I was growing up. We cannot let Covid-19 undo that progress.

But what is a night at the theatre without dinner? With restaurants finally able to open again, it’s vital that we all show our favourite eateries some support if we possibly can.

Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, has launched the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme to get things moving. This means the Treasury will offers diners up to £10 off in participating restaurants.

I urge local business owners to visit the Gov.uk website and sign up, and local residents who can do so safely to enjoy a meal out or two over the next few weeks. You’ve earned it.