Sunak to hold talks with business over 'lockdown by stealth' - report
Chancellor Rishi Sunak will hold talks on Thursday with representatives of the hospitality and business leaders, raising hopes of government support for sectors hit by the Omicron variant.
Sunak will speak to business leaders by video link from California where he is on a four-day official trip, the Financial Times reported. Unions and the Labour opposition have accused him of going missing with pubs, restaurants and other businesses facing cancellations at what should be their busiest trading time.
The government has not ordered hospitality venues to close but its warnings about the potential severity of the Omicron strain have prompted office parties to be called off and drinkers and eaters to stay at home. Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty on Wednesday advised people to limit socialising to essentials such as family.
Restaurateur and TV chef Tom Kerridge has warned restaurants will "crumble" after he suffered more than 650 cancellations in six days. Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, accused Sunak of going "missing in action" when he should be supporting businesses and their employees.
John Glen, a government minister, suggested more help could be on the way. "We do recognise this is a distinct new challenge," he told the House of Commons. Hospitality and travel business groups have accused the government of imposing a "lockdown by stealth" without the support measures offered earlier in the pandemic.
The Treasury said Sunak was in California to meet tech business leaders with a heavy schedule of appointments and was not staying at his holiday home in Santa Monica.