You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

DOMINIC LAWSON: Now we must keep eating for Britain

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 31/08/2020 Dominic Lawson for the Daily Mail
A waiter wearing a protective face mask displays "eat out to help out" information in a restaurant in the chinatown area of Soho in London on August 26, 2020, as businesses in the busy London area try to keep working despite the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. - Britain's economy shrank by one fifth in the second quarter, more than any European neighbour, as the lockdown plunged the country into its deepest recession on record and tourists remain reluctant to visit because Britain is the European country worst hit by the coronavirus. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images) A waiter wearing a protective face mask displays "eat out to help out" information in a restaurant in the chinatown area of Soho in London on August 26, 2020, as businesses in the busy London area try to keep working despite the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. - Britain's economy shrank by one fifth in the second quarter, more than any European neighbour, as the lockdown plunged the country into its deepest recession on record and tourists remain reluctant to visit because Britain is the European country worst hit by the coronavirus. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

Good luck getting into your favourite restaurant today, if you haven't booked long in advance. 

This Bank Holiday Monday is the final day of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, in which diners can claim 50 per cent of the cost of their meal (up to a maximum of £10 a head) from the Government. 

Or rather, from all of us, as taxpayers. 

But this is no time for cavilling. Chancellor Rishi Sunak's ploy was regarded by Treasury civil servants as so abnormal that he compelled them to authorise it with a 'ministerial direction'. 

a man sitting at a table in a restaurant: Rishi Sunak's Eat Out to Help Out scheme comes to an end today, after a month of discount meals for diners © Provided by Daily Mail Rishi Sunak's Eat Out to Help Out scheme comes to an end today, after a month of discount meals for diners

This is the formal instrument required when a Permanent Secretary (the most senior civil servant in each department) believes a spending proposal is 'improper or represents poor value for money'. 

____________________________________________________

More on coronavirus:

Download the Microsoft News app for full coverage of the crisis

What you can and can't do as rules change (Mirror)

How to stay safe on a flight (The Independent)

____________________________________________________

But the sheer scale of its take-up — in the first three weeks, no fewer than 64million discounted meals were claimed in over 80,000 restaurants and pubs — has helped rescue our hospitality industry at a time of unprecedented commercial peril. 

Jolt 

Perhaps the civil servants believed the scheme would simply subsidise meals that would be sold anyway, or would just shift business to the early part of the week (the discount was available from Monday to Wednesday). 

But the extent of the surge in demand, even above levels in normal, pre-Covid times, suggests it has done much more than that. 

Gallery: Coronavirus 2020: Visual diary of a global pandemic (Photo Services)

As David Williams, owner of the Baltic Market, which houses a dozen catering businesses in a converted 18th century brewery in Liverpool, observed earlier this month: 'People, myself included, underestimated the effect it was going to have.

'Most restaurants in Liverpool now, you can't even get a table for the whole of August, Monday to Wednesday.' 

The scheme sent a jolt of electricity through a population which was reluctant to eat out at all, not necessarily through fear of infection but just inertia or a habit acquired during lockdown. 

But there is a second, much less popular Government policy which must also take some credit for the salvation (temporary or not) of countless small businesses associated with domestic tourism. 

a store filled with lots of furniture: David Williams, owner of the Baltic Market in Liverpool, said businesses 'underestimated' the effect Eat Out to Help Out would have © Provided by Daily Mail David Williams, owner of the Baltic Market in Liverpool, said businesses 'underestimated' the effect Eat Out to Help Out would have

This is the sudden imposition of quarantine restrictions on Britons returning from certain other countries. 

First it was Spain, then France, then Croatia. 

Now even ultra-hygienic Switzerland has been removed from the list of nations with a quarantine-free 'travel corridor' to the UK. 

In all these cases, the requirement that returning travellers should self-isolate for a fortnight has been rushed through with little warning, based on reported increases in Covid infections in the countries concerned. 

a group of people sitting at a table: People enjoying some al fresco dining outside a restaurant in Notting Hill, London after lockdown was lifted © Provided by Daily Mail People enjoying some al fresco dining outside a restaurant in Notting Hill, London after lockdown was lifted

That is the official line, and is justified publicly as a means of limiting further outbreaks of the virus in the UK. 

It is therefore odd that, unlike in other countries, the quarantining process here seems to be so ineffectually invigilated. 

As the journalist Jenni Russell observed: 'I have come through the e-gates at Heathrow twice this summer and watched fellow passengers passing through en masse without either filling in their forms or being stopped. 

'There's no reinforcement of the quarantine message on arrival, no leaflets, no sense that this really matters.' 

Hotspots

a rocky island in the middle of a body of water: Cornwall's coastal paths were in no way crowded during Dominic Lawson's recent holiday © Provided by Daily Mail Cornwall's coastal paths were in no way crowded during Dominic Lawson's recent holiday

It is almost as if the real reason for the apparently capricious imposition of these requirements was to deter people from taking their holidays overseas and instead spend their money here — as an additional inducement to Sunak's Eat Out to Help Out scheme. 

If so, it has worked — and not just in such obvious hotspots as Cornwall, where one in three private sector jobs are connected to tourism. 

James Mason, the chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: 'We've been doing a roaring trade since July . . . supply can't meet demand and many businesses are saying they're booked into September and October.' 

The chairman of the Wales Tourism Alliance, Andrew Campbell, happily reported that 'self-catering is flying. It's been booked out to an unprecedented level'. 

Staff at the Ivy Victoria in London, prepare the dining area, as the government initiative Eat Out to Help Out comes to an end. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images) © PA Wire/PA Images Staff at the Ivy Victoria in London, prepare the dining area, as the government initiative Eat Out to Help Out comes to an end. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)

In 2018, international tourists spent just shy of £20billion in Britain. 

So, given that the big spenders, notably the Chinese and the Americans, were always going to stay away from the UK this summer, it was essential for British families to replace the absent foreign tourists. 

That does seem to have happened. Indeed, we have just returned from a fortnight in Cornwall. 

In our case, this was standard: in the more than a quarter of a century since our children were born, we have spent all but two of our summer holidays in either Cornwall or the Isles of Scilly. 

YORKSHIRE, UNITED KINGDOM - 2020/08/11: People socialise at a table outside the Waterfront restaurant during the Eat Out To Help Out scheme.
UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak's Eat Out To Help Out scheme has been used over 10 million times in its first week. Diners receive a 50% discount, up to £10 each, on food or non-alcoholic drinks every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday during August.
The scheme is to help boost the ailing hospitality industry which has been hard hit during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) © 2020 SOPA Images YORKSHIRE, UNITED KINGDOM - 2020/08/11: People socialise at a table outside the Waterfront restaurant during the Eat Out To Help Out scheme. UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak's Eat Out To Help Out scheme has been used over 10 million times in its first week. Diners receive a 50% discount, up to £10 each, on food or non-alcoholic drinks every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday during August. The scheme is to help boost the ailing hospitality industry which has been hard hit during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Keith Mayhew/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

We were braced for the Cornish roads to be even more busy than usual in August — and they were. 

Crowded 

But still, the astoundingly beautiful coastal path was in no way crowded, and on our walks from the cottage we rented, we would generally be able to take in those glorious views with no one else within eyeshot. 

The point about tourism is that while the most well-known beauty spots are always inundated with holidaymakers, you don't have to go far off the beaten track for less competitive sightseeing. 

But it was noticeable how some of the most sought-after restaurants had dropped out of Eat Out to Help Out: they simply couldn't cope with the volume of people turning up. 

a large brick building: Some of the most sought-after restaurants in England, including the Heron Inn at Malpas, near Truro, dropped out of Eat Out to Help Out as they simply couldn't cope with the volume of people turning up © Provided by Daily Mail Some of the most sought-after restaurants in England, including the Heron Inn at Malpas, near Truro, dropped out of Eat Out to Help Out as they simply couldn't cope with the volume of people turning up

So we paid full whack for lunch at the Heron Inn, with its gorgeous estuary vista high above Truro. 

Please note, we were not having a 'staycation'. 

This term, properly used to describe those who take their holiday while staying at home, is now being applied to all vacations taken in one's own country, which is a nonsense. 

Actually, the term 'staycation' describes what millions of Britons did for months during lockdown and furlough. 

But now the eating out and holidaying in Britain habits have returned, they need to continue even in the absence of Sunak's ingenious stimulus. 

Your nation's hostelries need you. 

_____________________________________

Stay alert to stop coronavirus spreading - here is the latest government guidance. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.

  
AdChoices
AdChoices

More From Daily Mail

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon