BORIS Johnson today claimed that his Government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme had “unquestionably” helped to protect many of the two million jobs in the hospitality sector, in contrast to what the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) reported last week.

Talking to Andrew Marr today, Johnson was asked if the scheme had helped to spread the coronavirus and contributed to a second wave. He answered: “I also think, I also think that it is important now, irrespective of whether Eat Out to Help Out you know, what the balance of there was, it unquestionably helped to protect many ... there are two million jobs at least in the hospitality sector.

"It was very important to keep those jobs going. Now, if it, insofar as that scheme may have helped to spread the virus, then obviously we need to counteract that and we need to counteract that with the discipline and the measures that we're proposing.

"I hope you understand the balance we're trying to strike."

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However, last Thursday (October 1) the BCC said that Eat Out to Help Out had had a “fairly marginal” impact on the hospitality sector.

A survey run by the body found that the scheme had failed to improve the finances of the UK’s hospitality and catering industries in the third quarter of the business year.

The bellwether survey of 6410 firms, employing over 580,000 people across the UK, revealed that, while key indicators remain significantly lower than before the pandemic struck, and that business to consumer firms, including hospitality, are faring the worst.

The BCC said the drop in revenue experienced by two-thirds of hospitality and catering firms was far greater than the 46% average decline across all sectors.

It found that two-thirds (66%) of respondents in hospitality and catering saw decreases in sales and bookings over the quarter and that indicators such as cash flow remain at levels comparable to the 2008 recession for firms in the services sector.

BCC director general Adam Marshall, said: “Our findings clearly demonstrate that business conditions remain fragile in the face of uncertainty, with the prospect of a difficult winter to come.

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“The economy will need more support, over and above the Chancellor’s welcome recent efforts.

“Ministers must stand ready to provide that support, and to strengthen measures to underpin business cashflow and jobs.

“The disappointing Test and Trace system must be improved to ensure as many businesses as possible can function through the winter and beyond.

“A Brexit deal must be reached to avoid yet more disruption. And above all, businesses need confidence and calm, clear communication to successfully navigate a tricky period ahead.”