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Wed 12th Feb 2014 - Propel Wednesday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Pub and restaurant groups report 7.2% like-for-like January sales jump: Pub and restaurant groups enjoyed an upbeat start to 2014, thanks to the weather. Collective like-for-like sales were up 7.2% on January 2013, a month that was badly affected by snow. Total sales, including the impact of new openings, were up 10.1%. The latest figures from the Coffer Peach Business Tracker come on the back of a strong festive trading period for pub, bar and restaurant groups, which saw like-for-like sales up 3.3% during the six weeks to 4 January. Peter Martin of CGA Peach, the business insight consultancy that produces the Business Tracker for the out-of-home market in partnership with Coffer Group, Baker Tilly and UBS, said: “Although January was the wettest on record and parts of the country have been severely hit by floods, the wet weather hasn’t stopped people going out in the same way that the snow and freezing conditions across the country last January kept people at home.” In January 2103, sales fell 2.4% against the same month in 2012. “Operators outside of London felt the biggest benefit, with like-for-likes up 7.5% against 6.6% inside the M25,” Martin said. “While all parts of the market performed better than last year, eating out benefited more than drinking out, with pub restaurant and casual dining chains together seeing a 8.4% like-for-like uplift. Although not too much should perhaps be read into the numbers because of the weather factor and because January is normally a quieter month, the scale of the increase will nonetheless add to the growing optimism we are detecting among operators in sector.” The Coffer Peach Tracker collects and analyses data from 27 leading pub, restaurant and bar groups. Looking at the longer-term trend, collective like-for-like sales for the group for the 12 months up to the end of January were running at 2.4% ahead of the previous year. David Coffer, chairman of the Coffer Group, said: “These figures reflect a continuing positive feeling that we are seeing throughout the sector. It is particularly heartening to see the growth outside the M25, which affirms the progressive confidence in the suburbs and provinces from operators with less dependence upon the Greater London area. It is now fully accepted that these non-London locations offer great opportunities in terms of value and customer support. This may well be an indication that central London is becoming overheated in terms of property costs. January’s figures indicate that we, as an industry, are coming out of recession fully – 2014 continues to look promising as a result.”

Industry News:

MP – we should follow the Isle of Man on VAT cut: Argyll and Bute MP Alan Reid has argued that the UK should study the example of the Isle of Man in cutting VAT for the tourism sector. Speaking in yesterday’s Westminster Hall debate, he said: “We do not just have to rely on theoretical modelling. The Isle of Man cut VAT on tourism to 5% 20 years ago and that was such a success that the Manx Government have never even considered reversing it. Visitor numbers to the Isle of Man show that, in the nine years before the cut, there was a sharp decline in tourism, but after the VAT cut, visitor numbers recovered strongly and have stayed high since then. Britain has a vibrant tourism industry. We have a wonderful product to sell, but common sense says that we cannot compete if our VAT rate is double that of our competitors. The experience of the Isle of Man and the independent modelling both indicate that cutting VAT on tourism will bring in more tax revenue than will be lost. Theory and practice are in agreement.” See bottom of the e-mail for a fuller report on yesterday’s debate. 

Landmark High Court nightclub decision delayed: A landmark High Court decision on whether to overturn a cut to a controversial nightclub’s hours has been delayed further. Funky Mojoe, in High Road, South Woodford, North East London, has appealed against a decision to limit its licence to normal pub hours after a history of anti-social behaviour associated with the venue. It is the first time a nightclub licensing issue has been taken to the High Court. A judicial review took place last week at which residents were told to expect a decision by Thursday last week. However no decision was made this week and it has now been further delayed until February 18. A local politician, Councillor Richard Hoskins, said: “It is such an important decision – nationally as well as locally – so I am sure the judge has a reason to take time over it.”

Yaser and Vicky Martini find a match for daughter Margot: Sector entrepreneur Yaser Martini and his wife Vicky have found a life-saving donor match was found for their daughter Margot after a huge campaign. The family launched an internet appeal to find a stem cell donor after their daughter Margot was diagnosed with two types of leukemia in October. Their video appeal clocked almost 100,000 hits and an estimated 40,000 people have requested donor packs from the charity Delete Blood Cancer. Now the couple, who have two other young sons, have learnt the happy news that a donor has been found for Margot, who is 17 months. Yaser said: “We found out on Friday, and it’s fantastic. We have had time to think about it over the weekend and it is just a massive relief. The match is not perfect, so the road ahead for Margot may be a bumpy one, but at least we are on the road. We can’t say thank you enough.”

One third of swaps scandal firms excluded: A third of businesses caught up in the interest rate swap mis-selling scandal have been excluded from compensation on the basis that they are “sophisticated”. A total of £306m has been paid out to 2,092 firms so far, an average of £140,000 each. However, almost 10,300 businesses out of more than 26,000 have been deemed “sophisticated” and not entitled to compensation. Almost half of those excluded lost out because of a change in the criteria in early 2013 meant that firms with swaps on loans of £10m or more were automatically excluded.

The Restaurant Man features Scandinavian restaurant in Macclesfield: The third episode of BBC Two’s Restaurant Man, featuring Russell Norman, will focus this evening on a Scandinavian restaurant in Macclesfield. Debbie Quinn opened Salt Bar, on the town’s Church Street, in August last year as her first venture into the industry. She said: “It was a tough few months, with film crews watching our every move, but the experience was invaluable.” The venue currently ranks sixth out of 136 restaurants in Macclesfield on the TripAdvisor website. Of its 47 reviews, 37 have ranked it excellent and a further five describing it as very good.

Floods bring Costa Coffee outlet record sales: The Costa Coffee outlet in Datchet, Berkshire has reported record sales as the local community turned out to help with relief efforts after Thames flood waters rose by at least six inches in the town centre. However, franchise owner Emilio Aleo, who runs six other Costa Coffee outlets, including one in Eton, said he fears he will have to close as the waters continue to rise, and he faced a big repair bill. “If it comes on to my floor, it’s going to cost me a lot of money,” Aleo said. The Datchet Costa Coffee, on The Green, opened in April last year at the former site of the 200-year-old Morning Star pub. On Tuesday the Environment Agency said Britain was moving towards the wettest winter in 250 years, covering the period from December to February.

Camra names Lancashire pub its pub of the year: Camra has named The Swan with Two Necks in Pendleton, Lancashire as its pub of the year. It’s been operated by Steve and Christine Dilworth and their two sons for 27 years. Julian Hough, Camra’s pubs director, said: “It’s a wonderfully welcoming pub that serves a fantastic pint and is popular with regulars and visitors alike in a quintessentially British rural setting.”

Company News:

TGI Friday’s to create 700 jobs in 2014: TGI Friday’s will create 700 new jobs in 2014 with seven new openings. The company will open in Liverpool in late spring at the Liverpool One shopping and leisure development. The location is set to become one of the busiest Friday’s in the country, benefitting from the 26 million visitors a year that Liverpool One attracts. The restaurant will be able to serve 150 guests at any one time and will be set over two floors, with ground and mezzanine levels. Housed within the Terrace Leisure area of Liverpool One, the restaurant will occupy nearly 5,500 sq ft. Building work on the site will commence mid-February, with the new restaurant opening its doors in late May. Other openings confirmed for this year including Brighton, Glasgow, Milton Keynes, as well as Friday’s first foray into rail transport hubs with a new concept set to transform station dining. David Carroll, property director for TGI Friday’s UK, said: “We have been looking for the right location in Liverpool for some time, so we’re delighted to announce that we have found the perfect venue. The investment reflects the strategic value of the site to our ongoing growth plans and we’re looking forward to starting work soon.”

M&B in court over food poisoning death: Mitchells & Butlers and two members of its staff have appeared in court after a food poisoning outbreak that led to the death of one woman and left more than 30 others ill following a Christmas Day meal. Della Callagher, 46, from Hornchurch, Essex died after eating a traditional turkey meal at The Railway Hotel, in Station Lane, Hornchurch, in 2012. The clostridium perfringens bacterium was identified as the likely cause of the sickness which also led to another 33 others becoming unwell. The pub’s parent company, Mitchells & Butlers, its former manager, Ann–Marie McSweeney, of Suttons Avenue, Hornchurch, and the former head chef, Mehmet Kaya, of Water Lane, Purfleet, Essex, appeared at Romford Magistrates Court on Friday, after a year-long investigation by Havering Council. The case has been sent to Snaresbrook Crown Court for a preliminary hearing on Monday.

Wetherspoon buys pub in Newtown, Wales: JD Wetherspoon has acquired The Black Boy Hotel in Newtown, Powys (population: 12,783). The company bought the 17th century grade II-listed pub last December and is carrying out a £1.5m refurbishment before it reopens in May. However, a decision to rename the pub after the last prince of an independent Wales will be reviewed after locals reacted angrily. Wetherspoon had decided to change the name of The Black Boy Hotel in Newtown to the Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. A councillor said the pub should be named after an eminent local person, like the social reformer Robert Owen. The decision will now be reviewed after the outcry. Meanwhile, JD Wetherspoon has started work on a long-awaited pub in Stamford, Lincolnshire. The company was granted permission to turn the former Rutland and Stamford Mercury office in Sheep Market, Stamford, into a pub in June last year. The pub should open on 27 May.

Elysium Group plans £5m Colchester development: Elysium Group, the Essex-based boutique restaurant, club and bar operator, is planning a 150-seater river front restaurant and wine bar, together with a 50-bed hotel, on the site of The River Lodge pub in Middleborough, Colchester. Elysium Group has submitted a formal planning application for the scheme after a detailed consultation with Colchester Council’s planning officers and a public consultation last August. In a statement, the company said it had “received overwhelming support from local residents and businesses” for the scheme. It continued: “The proposed development will deliver much needed quality hotel accommodation, which will benefit the town’s tourism industry, as well as bringing a positive contribution to the immediate area and the Colchester economy as a whole and as a catalyst for the Colchester North Station master plan.” Elysium was founded by entrepreneur Ash Afzalnia in 2000, when he opened a small coffee shop. It now runs six outlets, including the “tropical beach bar” Waikiki and the Qube bar, both in Colchester.

Third Anchor & Hope spin-off opens in Camberwell: The former Recreation Ground pub on Camberwell Church Street, South London, taken over by the team behind the award-winning Anchor & Hope gastropub in Waterloo, South London in November, reopens next week as The Camberwell Arms. The kitchen will be headed by Michael Davies of the South London summer-only outlet Frank’s Cafe, Peckham, who has previously cooked at both The Anchor & Hope and The Canton Arms in South Lambeth Road, another Anchor & Hope spin-off. The menu at The Camberwell Arms is said to include dishes such as barbecued cuttlefish, coriander and almond and whole grilled gilt-head bream. 
 
Coast to Coast, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and PizzaExpress to open in Bracknell: Bracknell Regeneration Partnership (BRP) has announced that Coast To Coast, Gourmet Burger Kitchen and PizzaExpress will arrive in the redeveloped town centre. Helen Barnett, marketing manager at BRP, said: “We are delighted to add these names to the fantastic portfolio of restaurants already confirmed to be opening in the new town centre. We are confident the popular restaurants will help to provide a vibrant night-time economy and turn Bracknell town centre into a popular destination for the local community.” The three additions will be part of a newly created restaurant area north of the High Street, behind the Bull pub. Nando’s, Carluccio’s and Zizzi have already signed up to come to Bracknell.

Beds and Bars embeds family tradition with arrival of chief executive’s son: Luke Knowles, the son of Beds and Bars’ chief executive, Keith Knowles, is to join the company as group retail training manager on 24 February 24. Luke has worked in the London hospitality industry for three years after graduating from the University of Bath in 2009. He most recently occupied the position of assistant general manager at the Gable in the City of London, for Novus Leisure. Keith Knowles said: “We’re marking 50 years of my family business and I’m so proud that my son Luke is joining us. He’s had apprenticeships with the G1 Group, C&C, which included work in the US, and two years with Novus. Every company he worked with offered him a full-time role and every company was sad to see him go. This dad is a very happy man.” Luke said: “I’ve seen Beds and Bars grow into what it is today since I was a boy. Now, after cutting my teeth with some of the best in the business, I look forward to diving in, with a cross-European focus on retail training. Joining the family business was always the plan. The question was, when was the right time, and at what level to join. When the position of retail training manager became available, it made the decision an easy one.” Beds and Bars operate 23 backpacker hostels, bars and pubs, in 11 cities, across seven countries. Key locations include Barcelona, Berlin, Paris and London.

Ask Italian re-opens flagship Islington site: Ask Italian has re-opened its London flagship restaurant in Islington this week. The 185-cover Islington site, one of the largest sites in the group’s estate, now reflects the brand’s new look. The reopening marks the half-way point in the refurbishing of all of Ask Italian’s 110 restaurants. Last year saw the chain refurbish 47 restaurants, and Islington marks the first significant reopening of 2014, with the remaining restaurants all scheduled to be completed by the end of 2015. Ask Italian’s managing director, Steve Holmes, said: “We’re delighted to be reopening our Islington restaurant, particularly because it marks such a major milestone in the transformation of the ASK Italian brand. We believe our passion for Italian culture shows not only in the quality and provenance of our food, but also in the design of restaurants – we hope our customers in Islington are as excited about the changes as we are.”

Pizza Hut UK chairman joins Bloomin’ Brands board: David Fitzjohn, chairman of Pizza Hut UK, has joined the board of the Florida-based casual dining operator Bloomin’ Brands, the owner of the Outback Steakhouse chain. Fitzjohn will serve on the board’s compensation committee. He is managing director of Sahana Enterprises and Sahana Estates, property development, investment and restaurant industry consulting businesses. Elizabeth Smith, chief executive of Bloomin’ Brands, said: “David’s years of experience developing restaurant concepts internationally will be a valuable asset as we continue to strengthen our international presence.” Bloomin’ Brands is one of the largest casual dining restaurant companies in the world, with more than 1,500 restaurants, and brands including Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar and others. Fitzjohn has served as managing director of Yum! Brands in Europe and as a non-executive at Rosinter Restaurants. His first job was as development and estates manager for Laura Ashley.

£10m Burger King franchise passes from father to children: Unionburger, a Burger King franchise based in Swansea that has nine outlets across South Wales and one in Gloucester, has been bought by brother and sister Chris Baker and Kim Jenkins from their father and his business partner John Davies, in a transaction backed by Barclays. Founded in 1984, Unionburger now has 309 employees, and its turnover is expected to pass the £10m mark in 2014. Chris Baker, who was already a director at Unionburger, said: “As our father and his business partner John Davies considered retirement, they were approached by a number of third parties to acquire the business. It was at this point that myself and my sister, with our combined experience of over 50 years in the industry, decided to keep it in the family, and approached Barclays for the funding.” Kim Jenkins, who was also a director at Unionburger, said: “The future looks promising, and we hope to open another four or five outlets across Wales in the next couple of years, providing we can identify the right locations and secure further funding with help from Barclays.” Greer Hooper, relationship director for Barclays, said: “We have a long-standing relationship with the company under its previous ownership and now wish to continue that strong relationship with the new management.”

Plan for McDonald’s, Costa Coffee and Marston’s pub at beauty spot prompts anger: A plan to build a McDonald’s, a Costa Coffee outlet and anew-build Marston’s pub restaurant at one of the most picturesque gateways between England and Wales has prompted anger. Developers want to build a retail park on a field in the middle of the Wye Valley Area of National Beauty overlooking the River Wye and close to a local comprehensive school in Monmouth. The Gateway to Wales Action Group says it has serious concerns and there are better locations in the town for proposed businesses. More than 300 people turned out for a meeting at the town’s Shire Hall to hear chairwoman Eileen Phillip say the development would be detrimental to the area.

Spirit to re-open former Pesto pub as a Flaming Grill next Wednesday: Spirit Pub Company will re-open a former Pesto site, The Waggon and Horses on Abbeydale Road South, Millhouses, Sheffield next Wednesday (19 February) as a Flaming Grill site. New landlord Stefan Hobman said: “The investment will refresh the look and offer, but at the heart of the pub it will remain a local still, showing sports, and with a dedicated bar area for those that just want to relax with a drink.” The second Pesto site returned to Spirit’s managed division, the Red Lion in South Stainley, near Harrogate, re-opened at the start of February as a Fayre & Square site.

SSP to open three brands at new Woburn CenterParcs site: The transport hub food specialist SSP is to open three brands at the new CenterParcs site at Woburn, the Shearing House, Dexter’s and Canopy. Dexter’s is described as producing “real honest food” with hand-pressed burgers, Canopy offers “relaxed poolside dining for all the family” and the Shearing House provides “contemporary British casual dining with a playful twist”.

Papa John’s becomes Newcastle United’s official pizza partner: Papa John’s has become Newcastle United’s official pizza partner. The pizza company, which has six stores in the North-East of England, will offer Newcastle fans 50% off their pizzas every time the Magpies score twice in a Premier League match. Dale Aitchison, head of partnerships at Newcastle United, said: “The fans play a big part in our performances at home and on the road, and it’s great that Papa John’s have shown their appreciation for the support they give our players.” Newcastle have only scored more than once in one of their last six Premier League matches.

Weston Manor owners re-brand pub acquisition: The owners of the Weston Manor hotel in Oxfordshire, Mark Godfrey and chef Martin Underwood, have re-named The Ben Jonson pub in nearby Weston-on-the-Green as The Black Sheep to fit in with branding at Weston Manor. New signs went up last week and the refurbished pub is due to reopen on Monday. Some village residents have expressed their unhappiness at the name change, with one, Dr Susan Daenke, saying villagers would “vote with their feet” and go to another pub. She said: “There is very strong feeling in the village against the change. He risks alienating village customers to the pub at his peril.” A spokesman for the pub said: “While we understand that some local residents were attached to property’s former name, it’s quite normal practice to change a business name on new ownership.” Punch Taverns, which owns the pub, said its tenant made the name change decision to link the pub with “branding of the operator’s sister restaurant, Weston Manor Hotel.”

Lincolnshire village set to lose both of its pubs to the Co-op: The Lincolnshire village of Morton looks set to lose both of its pubs to the Co-op. Lincolnshire Co-operative demolished the old King’s Head pub in High Street, Morton, in November, submitting plans to build a supermarket there the following month. At the same time a separate planning application to demolish The Lord Nelson, in Bourne Road, a Marston’s pub, and build a food store in its place was submitted by Aegis Architects. This week Lincolnshire Co-operative revealed that it had abandoned its plan to develop the King’s Head site and had instead switched its attention to the Lord Nelson. Spokesman Emma Snedden said: “We feel a new food store in Morton will give people in the village further shopping choice and a place to do ‘top-up’ shopping without travelling far. This site is better placed to provide parking facilities and, because the store would be set further back from the road, would allow for better sight lines at the A15 junction.”

Southend bar and nightclub owner considers rental route: A nightclub and bar owner is considering renting out all his premises because it is becoming too much of a struggle to keep them going. Richard Shea owns five venues across Southend, Essex and is still running three of them. However, he said it was becoming increasingly difficult to make a profit in the nightclub industry with increased competition and the tough economic climate. Shea owns the freehold of Dick de Vigne’s club in Warrior Square and Churchills, in Tylers Avenue, but both have been rented out to other operators. He still owns and runs Mayhem, in Warrior Square, and Legends, formally Mansion, in Elmer Approach, as well as the Tiger Lilly bar in Leigh Road, Leigh. Shea said: “It is so hard to get a successful club going nowadays – really, really hard. I have just rented out Churchills. We were running it, but could not make it work. Now someone else has come in to see if they can make it work better. Bars all over England have been closing during the recession, so we are doing better than that and are still working at it with the clubs and making them work. But there are a lot in the town. If someone came forward and wanted to take on the other clubs, I would consider it.”

B&B in Bath sells for well above £2.5m asking price: The Ayrlington hotel in Bath has been sold by Colliers International at a figure well above the £2.5m asking price. Colliers’ hotels director, Simon Wells, said the 16-bedroom B&B hotel had attracted considerable interest and triggered brisk bidding. The five-star property has been sold to an Italian investor who already owns one hotel in the city. The previous owners, Ling and Simon Roper, bought the hotel in 2000 and launched an immediate refurbishment programme. Mrs Roper has now bought the nearby Apple Tree B&B, which she is planning to relaunch in time for the Easter break. Wells said last year’s improved summer weather had signalled a significant upturn in business for the city centre hotel. “The Ayrlington overlooks the Rec and Bath Abbey and makes the ideal base for tourists keen to explore the Georgian city. With occupancy hitting 98.2 %, it is clear visitors are returning to Bath in droves,” he said. The Ayrlington saw a turnover of £506,000 net of VAT. It includes a three-bedroom flat for the owners.

Upstairs neighbours’ noise complaint means hiccup for Faucet Inn bar’s extended hours bid: A complaint by the family living above Faucet Inn’s new Refectory bar in Hampton Hill, Middlesex has seen the bar given only a temporary extension to its opening hours. The bar, which opened on December 6 last year, applied to Richmond Council to open an hour later from Thursday to Saturday, and one and a half hours earlier everyday except Sunday which would be two hours earlier. However, Danielle Neville and Joe Paul, who live in the flat above the bar, told the planning committee meeting that considered the application that music, noise and drinking taking place outside of the opening hours have had “a major impact” on their lives. Paul said when they bought the flat two years ago, “we were told by the estate agents in conjunction with the property developer that it was 95% going to be a Waitrose, and if not, a Fitness First.” Councillors voted overwhelmingly in favour of the longer hours, but on a temporary basis and subject to a noise attenuation measure.

MPs call for reduction in VAT for tourism industry: A number of MPs have called on the government to reduce VAT for the hospitality sector in a debate held yesterday in Westminster Hall. Margaret Ritchie, the SDLP MP for South Down, who won the right to hold the debate alongside Caroline Lucas, the Greene MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “Will the Minister robustly consider the case for a reduction in VAT on hotel accommodation and visitor attractions from 20% to 5%? Would he also consider broadening that out in future to the wider hospitality sector, including to food served in pubs and restaurants? That would encourage many more foreign visitors and provide an incentive for staycations in the domestic market. It would boost coastal resorts, rural retreats and cities and towns that have been hit hard by the economic downturn since 2008. The industry is significantly constrained by its lack of price competitiveness. The Chancellor is not long back from Davos. While there, he may have learned that the World Economic Forum places the UK in 138th place for price competitiveness for tourism, out of 140 countries. The UK sits at the bottom of the international league table, with businesses facing the challenge of the highest rates in the world for VAT, air passenger duty and visa charges. The purpose of today’s debate is not to rehearse the arguments on issues such as air passenger duty, but that placing shows that the government’s lack of action on VAT forms part of a broader lethargy when it comes to supporting the tourism industry. The government say that visitor numbers remain strong, but I would suggest that is in spite of the current pricing policy, rather than because of it. The UK’s balance of payments for tourist products has declined steeply in the past 15 years, making it clear that tourism growth has not been what it could have been in recent years, and that we are not maximising the industry’s enormous potential to deliver revenue and jobs. I would argue that the blame for that lies with the policy regime, which is holding back the industry’s potential. Any argument from the government based on the cost of a VAT cut being prohibitive is highly dubious. There is strong evidence from the Treasury’s own economic modelling, as used by Professor Adam Blake in a study for the British Hospitality Association, that a VAT cut for the sector would benefit the whole economy. Yes, there might be a loss of some £640m in the first year, but that would be comfortably offset by years 2 and 3 of the programme. Figures show that a 15% cut in tourism VAT would quickly become revenue-neutral and would result in a radically increased tax take of £2.6bn over ten years, delivering a £4bn boost to the gross domestic product.” Other MPs to speak in favour of a VAT cut for the sector were: Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire), Nigel Dodds (Belfast North), Geoffrey Cox (Torridge and West Devon), Geoffrey Haworth (Knowsley), Tim Faron (Westmoreland and Lonsdale), Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury), Stephen Lloyd (Eastbourne), Tessa Munt (Wells), Dr Sarah Wollaston (Totnes), Albert Owen (Ynys Mon), Mark Williams (Ceredigion), Andrew Bingham (High Peak), Mike Weir (Angus), Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute), Jim Shannon (Strangford), Simon Hart (Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire), Lindsay Roy (Glenrothes), Adrian Sanders (Torbay), Sammy Wilson (East Antrim) and Nick de Bois (Enfield North). Treasury Minister David Gauke said: “I reiterate that funding the cut by additional borrowing would be contrary to our long-term economic plan to get the deficit down and put our public finances in a credible position. It would entail a risk to the recovery. As all honorary Members know, the government’s priority is to tackle the record budget deficit decisively but fairly and to restore confidence in the economy and support the economic recovery. The conclusion that we reached, therefore, which I announced in Parliament last year, is that a VAT cut would not produce sufficient economic growth to outweigh the revenue shortfall. I have not seen any new evidence since then that has led me to revisit that conclusion, so, at present, the government have no plans to introduce a VAT cut for the sector.”

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