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

Solihull Observer

Last week, the Government unveiled a support package worth almost £1.6 billion for our arts sector.

This is hugely welcome. Lockdown has been difficult for all of us, but the requirements of social distancing place a particular burden on cultural institutions such as theatres and concert venues.

Even a one-metre spacing rule would force many of these to run at just 20 per cent of their normal capacity, a level far too low to make performances sustainably profitable.

As Chairman of Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Select Committee, I have been working day-in, day-out to make sure that the Government stepped up and offered the arts the help they needed.

In May I wrote to Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, and over the past few months I have met representatives of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Southbank Centre, and theatres up and down the country.

This announcement is only the first step. Whilst the support is welcome, many cultural venues face having to remain closed for a long time yet, even as the rest of the economy re-opens around them.

Last week I stood up in the Commons and pressed Caroline Dinenage, the Culture Minister, about the need for a special package tailored to their needs, as well as the importance of getting TV production up and running as soon as possible.

We must ensure that the arts are ready to come back as soon as it is safe to do so, and can play their full part in helping the nation bounce back from Covid-19.

Another crucial sector which has faced particular challenges during the pandemic is the restaurant industry.

We have all missed our favourite eateries over the last few months. Now they’re open again and Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, is offering a helping hand to get things moving.

Restaurants here in Solihull can now visit the official Gov.uk website and sign up for the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme, under which the Treasury will chip in with up to £10 off the price of a meal out.

I hope that as many as possible will take advantage – and that lots of local residents will join me in showing our favourite places our full support over the summer.