Covid Inquiry : Terms of Reference Consultation Submission on Behalf of Hugh Osmond, Sacha Lord & Michael Kill
Do the Inquiry’s draft Terms of Reference cover all the areas that you think should be covered by the Inquiry?
Please explain why you think the draft Terms of Reference do not cover all the areas that the Inquiry should address.
Please answer the question in the textbox below. :
This submission is made on behalf of Hugh Osmond by his solicitors, JMW Solicitors. Mr Osmond is a key figure representing the hospitality industry,
comprising restaurants, bars, pubs, cafes and nightclubs in the UK.
In making this submission, Mr Osmond has support from Michael Kill of the NTIA and Sacha Lord, the Night Time Economy Advisor for Greater
Manchester. By virtue of their various roles (which are detailed below), Mr Osmond, Mr Lord and Mr Kill are in regular discussions with businesses, representatives and organisations forming the hospitality industry. In particular, they are in frequent contact with Kate Nicholls OBE, the CEO of UKHospitality. Collectively, they hope to work together to participate in the Inquiry on behalf of the sector and are confident that one powerful voice can be formed on behalf of the industry as a whole, whilst maintaining representation for the distinct subgroups within it.
Background and experience:
Mr Osmond’s background in hospitality and his experience of the industry can be summarised as follows:
• Mr Osmond has worked in the hospitality industry continuously since 1986 and is regularly asked by media outlets to provide his view on matters
affecting the industry. He appears frequently on various media forums and is recognised by the media as a representative for hospitality.
• In 1993, Mr Osmond led the float of PizzaExpress, which at the time was the first sit-down, casual dining chain in the country.
• In 1997, he founded and became Chairman of Punch Taverns, one of the UK’s largest pub chains. He remained in that role until 2001.
• Mr Osmond is the Founder, a major shareholder and a non-Executive Director of Various Eateries Plc, which owns and operates numerous hospitality
premises in the UK, including hotels, restaurants, terraces, cafes, lounges, bars and workspaces.
• Mr Osmond is also the founder of Osmond Capital Ltd (“Osmond Capital”), which oversees his investments in Various Eateries Plc, Mudlark Hotels
Limited, DDE Group, which operates nightclubs and late-night bars in the UK, and Flight Club, a social darts bar and restaurant with sites in London,
Manchester and Birmingham.
• In addition to hospitality, Osmond Capital also oversees Mr Osmond’s investment in two biomedical science companies, Azellon Ltd and NTL Biologica
Limited, the latter of which provided Covid testing services for Hertfordshire Council and Portsmouth University. Osmond Capital’s other investments
include education, sports and health related businesses.
The backgrounds and experience of the supporters of this submission are as follows:
• Sacha Lord: co-founder of The Warehouse Project (a club night in central Manchester which hosts over 300,000 people per event) and Parklife (the UK’s
biggest Metropolitan music festival). Mr Lord has acted as the Night Time Economy Advisor for Greater Manchester since 2018 and has extensive
experience in the sector, having worked in the hospitality industry since the 1990s. In his role as Night Time Economy Advisor, he is now an active
representative for the industry, and is regularly asked by the press to comment on matters affecting hospitality. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Mr
Lord has been particularly active in bringing legal challenges against various restrictions placed on the sector, including successfully challenging the 10pm
curfew and the ’substantial meal’ requirement under the Tier system.
• Michael Kill: the CEO of the Night Time Industries Association (“NTIA”). NTIA is an organisation with around 10,000 members including two thirds of the
country’s nightclubs, in addition to pubs, live music venues, casinos, theatres and activity venues. NTIA represents the full spectrum of night time
businesses, including primary and secondary night time economy. Mr Kill is also the Chair of the UK Door Security Association and works closely with a
wide variety of suppliers to night time businesses. In a similar vein to Mr Lord and Mr Osmond, Mr Kill has taken an active part since the outbreak of
Covid-19 in lobbying for and protecting the businesses he represents across his various roles, leading campaigns to put pressure on the Government on behalf of different types of businesses within the sector.
The hospitality industry was one of the worst-hit sectors during Covid. This has been recognised by the Government (for instance in its observations in the Covid-19 Response Spring 2021 from February 2021). The disastrous economic and mental health impacts caused by the restrictions placed on British
pubs, bars and restaurants cannot be overstated. The industry was left financially crippled by the measures imposed throughout the relevant period, with enormous numbers of businesses and livelihoods lost completely.
As matters stand, the draft Terms of Reference (“ToR”) make reference to hospitality only once, referring to the closure and reopening of the sector.
Whilst that is an important issue which must be considered by the Inquiry, there are many other aspects to the Government’s treatment of the industry which also need to be addressed.
The key objective in the Inquiry for hospitality is to ensure that the full extent of the impact of Covid on the industry is assessed, including a close consideration of the available evidence relied upon by decision makers at each stage. This exercise will be crucial in order to establish a framework for an effective cost/benefit exercise to be conducted before measures are implemented against the industry in the event of any future pandemics, or comparable civil emergencies.
Comments on the ToR – an assessment of the measures imposed:
The hospitality industry was affected during the pandemic by national restrictions imposed across all parts of the economy and life in the UK, in addition
to restrictions which were specific and exclusive to hospitality.
It is apparent from the ToR that some of the national restrictions imposed which affected hospitality (such as social distancing measures, PPE, the
requirement to wear face coverings) will be assessed by the Inquiry. However, the ToR do not make reference to anywhere near the full extent of relevant
national restrictions (e.g. the Tier restrictions from 2020-2021 or the Spring 2021 Response).
Furthermore, the ToR fail to address any of the industry-specific measures which were imposed exclusively in hospitality settings, such as:
• The 10pm curfew;
• The 2m/1m+ rules;
• The requirement for table service only (and the consequences of that requirement, such as the need for venues to introduce mobile phone applications
as a way to facilitate custom whilst complying with the rules);
• The requirement for customers to wear face masks when not seated;
• The “substantial meal requirement” imposed during the tier system;
• The measure allowing venues to reopen with outdoor seating only during Spring 2021;
• The mandatory requirement for venues to collect Track & Trace details;
• The requirement to check Covid passport/ vaccination details before permitting entry to large scale events;
• The ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme.
To assess only a selection of the national restrictions and to fail to address any of the industry-specific measures will mean that the collective impact of
the rules which were being imposed in succession of each other and contemporaneously will not be properly represented or considered by the Inquiry.
The ToR must therefore be updated to include the full extent of national and sector-specific measures.
A sector-specific approach:
The most logical way in which to ensure that impact of the restrictions is properly understood and to ensure that important points are not missed is for
the Inquiry to adopt a sector-specific approach (as opposed to a measure-based approach). Since hospitality is one of the largest and most significant
sectors within the British economy, employing 3 million people and contributing circa 5% of the nation’s GDP, it undoubtedly ought to be considered,
assessed and heard in its own right by the Inquiry.
When adopting a sector-based approach, the Inquiry will need to consider the level of understanding of the industry demonstrated by decision-makers
during the pandemic, and whether those in power took into account the practical considerations for businesses within the sector, as well as the operating
differences between the different business types.
Comments on the ToR – the impacts of measures:
Despite the importance of hospitality as a major sector, currently the ToR fails to address the effects of the measures imposed upon the industry.
The impacts arising out of the measures placed on hospitality which need to be considered by the Inquiry include:
• The practical realities of enforcing/complying with rules for staff, including the need to increase staff training and recruit additional employees, and the
uncertainties surrounding staffing and rota-planning;
• Logistical considerations for businesses from the perspective of using suppliers and ordering perishable supplies given the uncertainty caused and the
short notice given by Government when announcing and implementing new rules;
• The money invested by businesses in order to implement the measures.
• The broader economic impact on individuals, businesses and society, particularly the closure and subsequent bankruptcy of many previously viable businesses;
• Unemployment within the sector, and specifically the impact that had on certain groups of society (see for example the Government’s comments in the Spring 2021 Response that hospitality staff are more likely to be young, female and from an ethnic minority);
• The impacts on inequality;
• The mental health impacts on staff and business owners;
• The societal consequences of closing and restricting hospitality, and the short and long-term changes in consumer behaviour as a result of measures
• The impact on the hospitality sector and specifically how different business types within the broader industry were affected. For example, the Inquiry
ought to consider how the restrictions may have created market distortion due to:
o The differences in restrictions imposed on similar venues which fell into distinct categories of businesses (as defined by Government), such as
nightclubs and city bars;
o The mechanisms of support and whether such mechanisms were proportionate and provided sufficient protection to all business types and sizes (for
instance larger businesses vs. SMEs);
o The administration of public funding, such as CRF funding, and the level of competence and understanding of the industry by those responsible for
assessing funding applications.
The Inquiry should also give careful consideration to the ways in which national measures affected sectors differently. The effect of the measures
designed to achieve social distancing, for example, impacted bars and restaurants – where individuals go to socialise and mix – in a significantly more severe way compared with the impact of the same restrictions in other contexts and sectors. In retail, the effects of social distancing measures were less damaging, since shopping does not typically involve or rely upon the ability to meet with friends and family in groups, or the mixing of multiple households in close proximity.
Similarly, the timing of announcements and the amount of notice of rule changes given to businesses affected the hospitality industry more severely than other sectors, as bars and restaurants depend upon supplies which tend to be perishable. By contrast, other industries would not have experienced the
same difficulties with closing and re-opening at short notice.
There is some indication in the ToR that the timings and the Government’s communication of measures will be considered by the Inquiry, in addition to an assessment of the available data and evidence which was used to inform the decisions being taken. The ToR ought to make absolutely clear that those
hugely important factors will be considered for each national and sector-specific measure imposed.
The purpose of reviewing all of the restrictions imposed, the circumstances surrounding the decision to impose them, and their impacts is to enable the
Government and future Governments to identify which measures worked, which failed and which were unjustifiable during the pandemic.
Aside from broadening the scope of the measures and consequences under consideration by the Inquiry and adopting a sector-based approach, the ToR ought to ensure that the ‘lessons learnt’ are sufficiently well-structured to achieve the Inquiry’s objective of informing the UK’s preparations for future
pandemics or other emergencies.
We propose that the most effective way to usefully learn from the Inquiry for future emergencies is for the Inquiry to work towards producing a framework which can be used to identify and measure the likely harms and benefits of decisions already taken, or proposed decisions in future. Such a framework could be used to assess future, proposed restrictions prior to their implementation to ascertain whether the proposed measures are justifiable, reasonable and necessary.
Which issues or topics do you think the Inquiry should look at first?
Please answer the question in the text box below. :
The economic damage to the hospitality sector as a result of the pandemic is widely known, and was recently reported by UK Hospitality as £115bn in lost sales based on estimates for 2020/2021.
An urgent interim report is needed to assess the economic impact of closing hospitality – the most drastic of the measures imposed against the sector – and to assist with conducting a costs/benefit analysis of that measure in particular.
It cannot become the standard or expected response of the Government to entirely shut down the hospitality sector on each occasion that there is a further Covid wave, or in the event of future pandemics or civil emergencies, unless it can be said with a high degree of certainty that the benefits of
doing so sufficiently outweigh the costs and harms caused as a result, and that is not currently the case.
If complete closure of the industry becomes the expected response, the sector will become un-investable.
Hospitality is one of the UK’s major economic sectors, and could realistically be wiped out entirely if it becomes completely undesirable from the perspective of investors as a result of a stock response
approach to civil or health emergencies. The industry will not be able to survive repeated future lockdowns, or the risk of repeated future lockdowns, and therefore wants to prevent any further lockdowns of the sector unless absolutely necessary and justifiable.
Scientists, including Professor Chris Whitty, are clear on the strong likelihood of further variants of Covid-19 within the next couple of years, and of the high risk of future pandemics in the foreseeable future.
The Inquiry must therefore as a matter of urgency and by way of an interim report produce a clear indication of the recommended response insofar as the hospitality industry is concerned in the event of another wave of infection.
The importance of the timing of such a report is crucial; if the Inquiry waits until the end of its process before producing a report, further waves of Covid may have hit, and it may already be too late for the sector to recover.
Do you think the Inquiry should set a planned end-date for its public hearings, so as to help ensure timely findings and recommendations?
How should the Inquiry be designed and run to ensure that bereaved people or those who have suffered serious harm or hardship as a result of the pandemic have their voices heard?
Please supply answer here :
As stated above, the Inquiry ought to adopt a sector-based approach, considering industries on a standalone basis by reference to the restrictions
imposed on them exclusively, and the impacts of national restrictions on those industries in particular. In doing so, the Inquiry should pay particular
attention to the accounts provided by industry representatives and experts of the impacts of those restrictions on the economy, and on businesses,
owners and employees.
Insofar as the design and structure of the Inquiry is concerned, distinct issues ought to be heard concurrently, so as to ensure that the process is as efficient as possible. Given the likelihood of a further wave, variant or civil emergency (such as another pandemic) within the coming months or years,
efficiency of the Inquiry will be crucial, and the ‘lessons learnt’ therefore cannot be postponed until after all investigative hearings have taken place, and should be prioritised as far as is possible to do.
For industries like hospitality which have suffered enormous financial damage and face extinction if they are subject to the same or similar measures again in a further Covid-19 ‘wave’, it is of utmost importance that an expedited, interim financial report is produced in the first instance to ascertain the
economic harms caused by total closure of those businesses.
The ultimate objective of the Inquiry must be to establish a framework by which future restrictions and future decisions of those in power can be assessed, so as to ensure that harmful and damaging measures being proposed are justifiable by reference to benefits which are supported by evidence.
Any measures which do not pass the harms/benefit test could therefore not be imposed.
As stated above, the damage to the hospitality sector as a result of the restrictions imposed to date has been extensive. Further damage will result in the hospitality industry becoming ‘un-investable’, and therefore action must be taken to ensure that no further harms are suffered by hospitality businesses
and employees unless it can be proven that it is absolutely necessary, reasonable and justifiable to impose them.
Thank you for taking part in our online consultation