By Louise Bozec
Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown cancelled a speech at a major hospitality industry conference last week because of "unexpected Government commitments". A Treasury spokesman blamed "pressures of work" for the last-minute withdrawal, which disappointed a distinguished audience at the Joint Hospitality Industry Conference (JHIC) at London's Hilton Hotel, Park Lane.
Brown was replaced as speaker by the Paymaster General Geoffrey Robinson and Culture Secretary Chris Smith, who quickly came under fire for the Government's attitude to the hospitality business.
A report published by the JHIC to coincide with the conference, entitled In the world of hospitality… Anything they can do, we can do better, compared Government support for Britain's hospitality industry unfavourably with that of Ireland, Germany, the USA, Spain and Singapore.
The report said: "The reality of the industry in the UK is of many small operators, relatively ageing infrastructure delivering traditional products. This may be at odds with the current Government's vision of the UK, which until recently has been characterised as Cool Britannia."
David Michels, chief executive of Stakis, was also critical. He said: "Unless the Government acts with a single voice it is going to be difficult for the hospitality industry to make the progress we want."
A spokesman for the JHIC said it had received the full apologies of Gordon Brown.