Pubs are at the heart of our communities and our economy and it is important that they are supported through this pandemic.
Unfortunately, as you know, the spread of the new, more contagious variant of coronavirus has forced pubs to shut their doors once more. We know the virus thrives on social interaction, especially in indoor spaces, and therefore it is vital that we get the virus back under control before pubs can reopen. However, as vaccine deployment continues, it will become harder for the virus to spread, and I hope that this, combined with the national lockdown, will halt the spread of the virus and allow us to reopen in the near future.
In the meantime, new one-off top-up grants of up to £9,000 are available for pubs that have been forced to close, in addition to monthly grants of up to £3,000 for closed businesses, and £2,100 for impacted businesses once they reopen. Moreover, no pub or other business in the hospitality sector will be required to pay business rates in 2020-21, HMRC has made it easier to claim back duty on beer thrown away due to closures, and the furlough scheme has been extended to April.
I am pleased that this robust package of support has been introduced to support pubs through the pandemic, and I also welcome the fact that the Chancellor will defer VAT repayments through a new scheme until March 2022. While I hope that this existing support package will be enough, evidence continues to be collected on the impact of the pandemic on our pubs, and if the need arises, I will not hesitate to call on ministers to introduce additional support measures.