'Nanny state': Business leaders condemn non-essentials retail ban in Wales

25 October 2020, 11:28 | Updated: 25 October 2020, 11:34

Businessman Theo Paphitis spoke to LBC's Swarbrick on Sunday
Businessman Theo Paphitis said he predicts a government U-turn on the rules. Picture: LBC

By Joe Cook

British business leaders have told LBC’s Swarbrick on Sunday that the Welsh government’s ban on “non-essential” items during the firebreaker lockdown has to go.

Theo Paphitis, chairman of stationery chain Ryman, the homewares specialist Robert Dyas and lingerie retailer Boux Avenue, told Tom the restrictions are "total nuts, total and utter nuts”.

Mr Paphitis, who is best known for his appearances as a ‘dragon’ on Dragons’ Den predicted a U-turn, adding: "It is just nanny state gone bonkers and obviously this can't last. If I was a betting man - which I'm not - I'd say this will be dead and gone by tomorrow."

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has agreed to review the measure following widespread criticism and says he will ensure “common sense is applied” over the ban on the sale of non-essential items in supermarkets.

But speaking to LBC, Mr Paphitis questioned whether the government should be deciding what was and was not essential in the first place: "What makes them say people don't necessarily need it? If you need a frying pan, you need a frying pan."

Likening it to the sketch show Yes Minister, he joked: "Who would have thought it? You have to isolate, you have got to stay at home and you have got to wear a hair shirt as well. I mean that's basically what they're saying to the people."

Sir Martin Sorrel, Founder and Executive Chairman of S4 Capital and Founder of WPP, the world's largest advertising and PR group, also told Swarbrick on Sunday he believes the Welsh government “has gone too far”.

Asked by Tom whether we have “slightly lost our minds here”, with non-essential items wrapped in polythene and consumers pushed to spend online, punishing the high street, Sir Martin said: “I think it is a bit nanny state. So I tend to agree with you. Who determines what is essential or not?”

“You may remember in the early days of the pandemic Amazon was faced with exactly the same predicament. They had to determine what was essential and goods that had to be distributed, and what was non-essential.

“I think it has been taken too far and at the end of the day you have to let the consumer decide.”

However, Sir Martin added: “Having said that, if you or I were in Rishi Sunak’s position, it would be a dreadful predicament. This balance between taking care of people’s health and knocking out the economy, that balance is very difficult to get right.”

Mr Paphitis also discussed his opposition to a national lockdown with Swarbrick on Sunday.

The Rymans owner explained that outside of metropolitan areas like London and Manchester, “trading has not been too bad at all”.

“We are actually pretty pleased,” he told Tom, but added: “A total lockdown across the country would be a very detrimental thing to our business and to most businesses actually."