Minister would be a hard act to follow

01 January 2000
Minister would be a hard act to follow

National Heritage Secretary Virginia Bottomley won't forget last Monday evening in a hurry. For a start, she turned up to the Hotel General Managers' conference dinner at London's Royal Garden Hotel, organised by the Master Innholders, no less than three times.

Her first appearance, at 7.30pm, lasted just five minutes before she rushed back to the House of Commons for a crucial vote. This forced a quick change to the programme as her speech was moved from before the meal to after the first course.

She duly arrived back, spoke and then left almost immediately to return to the House. That was the last the audience expected to see of her so it came as a big, but welcome, surprise when she returned again at the end of dinner to discuss industry matters with the 230 hoteliers present.

Mrs Bottomley's enthusiasm to return again - and again - was no doubt partly caused by the lingering guilt she felt at cancelling the same dinner last year to attend a meeting of her husband's constituency association in Sussex.

Unfortunately, scuttling backwards and forwards to the House of Commons was all to no avail because Labour sprung a surprise vote on the Education Bill, which the Government lost by a single vote.

No doubt the whips will have been keen to learn of Mrs Bottomley's unfortunate movements on Monday evening. They will probably be less interested to know that she gave a very polished presentation at the dinner.

She explained why she believed the Government's desire to have as few restrictions as possible on employers was good for the hospitality industry. For every £100 in wages paid in the UK there were costs of just £18, she claimed.

This compared with £32 in Germany, £41 in France and £44 in Italy. She also reiterated the Government's opposition to the minimum wage, the Social Chapter and the Working Time Directive.

In addition, she outlined the measures her department has taken to help the hospitality industry over the past two years, which culminate in the launch of a wide-ranging strategy document next week.

Perhaps that document will also provide the Government's valedictory message to the hospitality industry before the general election. If it does, then the enthusiasm and commitment of the minister will be missed by most people in the hospitality industry, whatever their political persuasion.

Gary Crossley


Caterer & Hotelkeeper

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