Alex Sobel has become the first front bench Shadow Minister to make his debut at the dispatch box through a virtual video link.
The new Shadow Minister for Tourism and Heritage used the opportunity to quiz Government Minister, Nigel Huddleston on support for the industry in the wake of the coronavirus crisis and challenged him to employ a similar strategy used by Emanuel Macron in France.
Alex said “It is a pleasure to make my Dispatch Box debut, albeit virtually; I believe I am the first Member to make an inaugural appearance from the Front Bench online.
On Friday, G20 Tourism Ministers met. The UK tourism sector is greatly exposed to the lockdown and, with the summer season coming, the uncertainty is causing distress.
The sector learnt that it would be among the last to exit lockdown merely as an aside from the Minister for the Cabinet Office on “The Andrew Marr Show”. In contrast, President Macron outlined a strategy for the French tourism trade including flexible furlough, a 100% state-backed loan—not 80%—and state backing for postponed rather than cancelled holidays.
Our system of refund credit notes can be expanded and extended to protect our domestic tourism industry. Did the Minister discuss those measures at the G20 meeting? What consideration has he made on introducing them?”
Nigel Huddleston, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of state for Sport, Tourism and Heritage said “I congratulate the hon. Member on his first virtual appearance from the Opposition Front Bench. He raises many important issues.
We had a constructive conversation with the G20 tourism Ministers, primarily around the recovery programme. We are continuing the dialogue, both domestically and internationally, on all those issues. Of course, the tourism, hospitality and leisure sector has benefited from additional measures including business rate relief, and we will continue the dialogue with all stakeholders to ensure that the sector is looked after.”
After the session Alex Sobel said on twitter “Parliament has been sitting in one form or another for over 700 years. But today was the first time an MP made their ‘despatch box’ debut virtually!
Glad to have started as a Shadow Minister by breaking some new ground in the Virtual Parliament era speaking up for UK Tourism!”