BHA’s review of the General Election party manifestos

The timing could not be better for the BHA Summit being held next Tuesday (June 6) - just two days before the General Election.

For the hospitality and tourism industry these events are inextricably linked because the new government will have a profound impact on the future of our businesses, which we will be discussing and debating at The Summit, (for details see here).

BHA members have been emailing, calling and meeting with their local candidates, pushing forward the issues which we made in our Hospitality and Tourism Manifesto. This focussed on Brexit and workforce supply, the independence of the Low Pay Commission for setting minimum wage rates, securing a fundamental review of the business rates system, and achieving a reduction in Tourism VAT.

Our members, using the BHA Election Toolkit, have been vigorous in leading a grassroots campaign of one-to-one  engagement reinforcing our message and helping raise our industry’s profile at both a local and national level. When the dust has settled after the election, we will be calling on members to meet their newly elected MPs to secure their support as industry champions.

It is vital that the new Parliament recognises and understands the importance of our businesses and their role in the UK economy.

We are the fourth largest industry and employ over 4.5m people, so it is baffling why our official route into Parliament is through the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. A move to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy is one of our priorities.

So, what have the parties being saying about the key issues affecting hospitality and tourism?

A major focus has been around immigration, visa reform and workforce supply. The Conservatives have taken a step in the right direction, following extensive BHA campaigning, for an enhanced role for the Migration Advisory Commission (MAC) to ensure it is better aligned with the needs of the UK economy. The BHA believes that the MAC should work in a similar way to the Low Pay Commission (LPC) where it would do rigorous research and evidence gathering each year, so it can knowledgeably recommend, to the Government, the number of sectoral work permits that could be issued. This would help depoliticise immigration by using legitimate, impartial and objective analysis.

Labour and Liberal Democrats both made welcome commitments on guaranteeing the status of EU nationals residing and working in the United Kingdom. The Labour manifesto also made reference to transitional arrangements, which the BHA welcomed, in order to prevent businesses facing a “cliff edge” scenario in terms of workforce supply in 2019.

As a result of lobbying by the BHA and other organisations, all the major party manifestos pledged to address the business rates system, which is particularly unfair towards ‘bricks and mortar’ businesses such as hotels and restaurants. It looks very likely that the next Parliament will see a review of business rates to ensure it reflects today’s modern economy – including the new dominant position of digital and online companies.

The Conservatives plan to see the National Living Wage (NLW) reach 60% of median earnings by 2020 (the stated objective when the NLW was announced in 2015). This was to be expected and their desire to see it maintain this level thereafter by pegging increases to the rise in average earnings is, on the face of it, reasonable. The BHA is campaigning for the LPC to have a clear mandate to review the effect of the NLW on employment and for the LPC to also be free to make recommendations for a lower threshold than 60% if this is supported by clear evidence.

In comparison, Labour and the SNP have proposed to set a £10 minimum wage for all ages. The BHA believes this would damage employment levels. The hospitality and tourism industry supports the principle of the NLW, but it is counter-productive for political parties to set out specific promises or targets for future rates. The introduction of the NLW has already been difficult for many small businesses and the BHA and Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers have repeatedly called on the Government to extend the relief on employers’ National Insurance Contributions to the under 25s to help them manage the impact.

The Liberal Democrats are formally committed as a party to a reduction in Tourism VAT. However, this was not included in their General Election manifesto (though it was included in their local election manifestos last month). The SNP made a welcome pledge to examine the case for a Tourism VAT reduction, with Plaid Cymru in Wales also supporting a reduction.

There is a lot to play for, and in securing a ‘majority’ for hospitality and tourism in the next Parliament – we need your MP’s vote.

Each MP represents a voice and vote in Parliament.

In the last Parliament, the number of recognised hospitality industry champions reached 173 MPs as members contacted their local representatives, met with them locally or at the Hospitality and Tourism Day at Parliament.

In 2017 the BHA wants to increase this to over 200 MPs and secure more than 326 MP supporters over the course of the Parliament. Whatever party makes up the next Government we want to make sure our industry has its own majority of support in Parliament.

If you want to get involved in BHA grassroots campaigning and meet with your future Member of Parliament please contact vernon.hunte@bha.org.uk.

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