Yorkshire MP 'has a lot of drinking to do' to get pubs spending up to pre-pandemic levels, says Jacob Rees-Mogg

A Yorkshire MP has been told he “has a lot of drinking to do” to get pub usage up to pre-pandemic levels as he revealed spending was at less than 50 per cent of that prior to the pandemic when establishments opened this week.

Friends enjoy a pint of Stella Artois amid the return of customers to the hospitality sector, following the latest lifting of restrictions. Photo: PA

Conservative MP for Wakefield Imran Ahmad Khan told the Commons today that data suggested spending in pubs in his constituency on Monday was only at 43.9 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, and asked for a debate on support for the industry.

Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “I’m pleased to hear the good news from Wakefield on the return to a degree of normality but I’m sorry to hear that pubs are only at 43.9 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. (Mr Ahmad Khan) clearly has a lot of drinking to do to help get Wakefield back up to average.

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“There has been a good deal of Government support, taxpayer support: £5bn for the new restart grants which include pubs, and the business rate holiday which includes pubs, and there is a total cost of cash grants to the taxpayer of £25bn.

“But ultimately, this is up to all of us. If we want to save our pubs we have to go into them and it doesn’t mean we have to drink yards of ale, although some may choose to do that. But we want to go in and have something to eat, I believe Scotch eggs are popular in certain quarters, and we need to buy our children a Coca-Cola or a lemonade. We need to support our own pub industry if it is to survive.”

Mr Rees-Mogg called on MPs to “lead by example” and pointing towards shadow leader of the house Valerie Vaz added: “(She) wants to go on a pub crawl.”

Addressing Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans Mr Rees-Mogg said: “I can think of no finer companion than you to take her round the finest pubs of both of your constituencies and get Britain’s pubs back into liquidity.”

Meanwhile, York Central Labour MP Rachael Maskell told Mr Rees-Mogg that it would be “deeply disturbing” to allow pilot mass gatherings at sporting events to go ahead as planned.

Ms Maskell said that “the reopening of the economy is something that we all welcome”, adding: “However, to leap from this to the mass gatherings at sporting event trials is deeply disturbing on the terms that they are being proposed – not least at York racecourse.

“And of course we have new variants now creeping into (the) community of Covid-19.

“So will the Leader of the House take up my concerns with Cabinet colleagues, of which I will write to him, and will he arrange for an opportunity for us to debate this in the House, and for all MPs impacted by these decisions to meet with the Secretary of State and his officials in order to discuss our concerns?”

Mr Rees-Mogg said: “(Ms Maskell) is raising concerns that I think many members have. There was obviously an opportunity to debate them immediately before the recess with the continuation of the Act.”

He added: “Obviously the Government wants to see unlocking take place and the road map has been set out. But if people have questions they are entitled to raise them, and if they don’t get answers directly, I will do whatever I can to facilitate answers.”