Boris Johnson promises £1,000 one-off payment to pubs that do not serve food

1 December 2020, 13:28 | Updated: 1 December 2020, 15:25

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Boris Johnson has announced pubs forced to remain closed under new coronavirus rules because they do not serve food will receive £1,000.

The Prime Minister made the announcement to MPs at the start of a Commons debate on the new tiered system.

He said: “Today we're going further, with a one-off payment of £1,000 in December to wet pubs... recognising how hard they’ve been hit by the virus in what is typically their busiest month.”

It comes as he looks to ward off a Conservative rebellion over his post-lockdown plan ahead of a vote on the new system on Tuesday evening.

READ MORE: Gove defends Tier plans as PM faces crunch Commons vote

READ MORE: Labour accused of playing politics ahead of Commons vote on Tiers

His announcement has been met with heavy criticism.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer slammed the grant as the “definition of small beer”, adding that "many businesses are now receiving less support than they did during the first wave".

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, said the payment "does not even count as a token gesture".

She added: "Equivalent to just 1.1 per cent of last year's takings, it falls far short of the bare minimum required to keep these businesses alive.

"The Government's entire approach to this lacked any sliver of logic, as evidenced by the farcical debate around Scotch eggs over the past 24 hours.

"There needs to be a much clearer and supportive approach from the Government and this means providing far more support immediately.

"The new tier system condemns nine out of 10 hospitality businesses to being unviable by the new year."

The British Beer & Pub Association said that on its own, the sum was "nowhere near enough to stave off thousands of pub closures".

Mike Cherry, the national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: "Pubs are facing a dark and difficult winter ahead, and ahead of the new restrictions coming into force tomorrow, we need to see action if we are to save the nation's pubs from collapse.

"Those so-called 'wet pubs' that predominantly only sell alcoholic drinks have been left high and dry about how they are going to survive during what should be a normally busy and bustling festive period."

He said the extra funding would "hardly scratch the surface" and added £4,000 was "a bare minimum if it is going to have any genuine positive impact for the businesses affected".

Sacha Lord, Greater Manchester's nightime economy tsar, tweeted: “I don't want to sound ungrateful, but Boris Johnson has just offered our wet led pubs 1k.

“1k will NOT save most of the 1806 wet led pubs across Greater Manchester.

“Our community pubs, most of which our in our most deprived areas. It feels like an insulting token gesture.”

James Calder, chief executive of the Society of Independent Brewers, said the £1,000 was a "derisory" amount.

Pub landlord Adam Brooks tweeted the amount would not even cover his electricity bill.

MPs are set to vote on measures that would put 99 per cent of England's population into the tough measures of Tier 2 and Tier 3 when the second national lockdown ends on Wednesday.

Pubs will only be allowed to open in Tier 2 if they can act as a restaurant, while those in Tier 3 will only be permitted to serve takeaway.

Mr Johnson faced barbed questions from disgruntled Tories during his hospitality announcement as he looked to face down a rebellion over his tiers proposal.

Many are furious that their constituencies face stricter controls than before the latest lockdown.

Only the Isle of Wight, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have been designated for the lightest Tier 1 restrictions.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Johnson acknowledged "people's feelings of injustice" about the tiers they had been placed in.

"There's no question people feel that they have been unfairly attracted, by proximity, into a higher tier than they deserve," he said.

"People also feel that the tiering is not working for them."

The Conservative Party leader indicated the Government would look at smaller areas when deciding tiering arrangements in future - a key demand of Tories concerned that low infection rates in some areas were not being reflected in the restrictions being imposed.

The Government is expected to win the vote on the new rules, which are due to come into effect on Wednesday, after Labour said it would abstain.

However a sizeable rebellion on his own benches would be embarrassing for the Prime Minister.