Andrew Jones MP calls for debate on stricken conference sector


Last updated Feb 1, 2021
Andrew Jones, Harrogate and Knaresborough MP.

Harrogate and Knaresborough MP Andrew Jones has called for a Commons debate on the stricken conference industry.

Speaking in Parliament, Mr Jones said the sector was “central to the economy” of both towns he represented but faced “real hardship” due to the pandemic.

Mr Jones said:

“One sector of business that has faced real hardship is the conference industry, a sector with a long and diverse supply chain, ranging from hospitality to exhibition stand construction.

“Please may we have a debate about that sector, to consider what can be done to ensure that it bounces back quickly, as it is so important for jobs and it is central to the economy of not only Harrogate and Knaresborough, but, of course, other constituencies around the UK?”

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Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg did not agree to the request but said event venues and organisers could make use of initiatives such as the furlough scheme and various grants.

He added:

“I join my honourable friend in praising the Harrogate convention centre for becoming a Nightingale hospital and therefore being able to help the community widely.”

NHS Nightingale Hospital Yorkshire and Humber, based at Harrogate Convention Centre.

NHS Nightingale Hospital Yorkshire and the Humber, based at Harrogate Convention Centre.

Judith Rogerson, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson for Harrogate and Knaresborough, described Mr Rees-Mogg’s response as “wholly inadequate”.

She added:

“It is striking that Jacob Rees-Mogg’s response on behalf of the government does not answer the question.

“Instead he has talked about the Harrogate Convention Centre helping the community by becoming a Nightingale hospital.

“I’d like to know what the government has planned to help restore the convention centre so it is ready to re-open again as soon as it is safe to do so.”

The convention centre was turned into a Nightingale hospital at breakneck speed last spring for covid patients in Yorkshire and the Humber, but has yet to treat a single person with coronavirus. It has been used for CT scans.

Knock-on effect

The effects of the pandemic on the conferences and events sector in the town have been profound, with several businesses closing their doors for good.

The Kimberley Hotel closed in December, citing the impact of covid and in October family events firm Joe Manby Ltd folded after 46 years.

This month would have seen the convention centre host the BIGGA turf management exhibition, which is an annual three-day conference for green-keepers that is one of the year’s biggest money-spinners for Harrogate — with hotels full and bar tills ringing.

Mr Jones urged Boris Johnson to provide financial support for the conference and exhibition industry at Prime Minister’s Questions last year but that plea also went unheeded.

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