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I think that we can all agree that this was not an ordinary Budget; it was the Budget that was called for in extraordinary times. I welcome it, as I am sure many people across the country do. The covid-19 virus presents us with a situation that is incomparable to anything in recent generations. These are challenging times, and as my right hon. Friend the Health Secretary reminded us, we will all need to make sacrifices. I commend my right hon. Friend the Chancellor for the funding boost that he has given the national health service at this crucial time. He has shown that the health of the nation will always be the top priority, through extra spending to help us through this difficult period.
I make an appeal to all Members across the House. We can see and hear that our constituents are anxious about the future. It is incumbent on all of us to work together in the national interest; these are not issues to be politicised. We recognise the challenge ahead, and the only way that we will get through this is together. I commend those who have already been working collaboratively across the House.
I was particularly pleased by the Budget’s focus on helping the small and medium-sized sector, for I believe that the public and private sectors work best in balanced symbiosis. They need each other, and the Budget recognises that. In a former life, I was a businessman, and I represented thousands of businesses in the west midlands. As a chartered accountant, I have built my career on working for SMEs. The people I helped were entrepreneurs—small business owners who, with their hard work and enterprising spirit, created jobs and stimulated our economy. They often had tight margins and took a great deal of personal risk.
I am proud of the small businesses and entrepreneurs in my region, but things are not always easy for them, and when faced with a crisis such as the one before us, many small businesses will find the additional burden unbearable. That is why I was so pleased to hear my right hon. Friend the Chancellor launch new measures last week, which I know from conversations with the business community have provided a lot of much needed reassurance and relief. Under those measures, businesses with fewer than 250 employees will be able to reclaim two weeks of statutory sick pay for employees who are unable to work because of coronavirus. We also welcome the rates relief for the hospitality sector.
The Government recognise that employers want to do the right thing and give staff the time that they require, and small businesses should not be punished for that. However, I ask those in the insurance industry, from whom I repeatedly hear nothing, to accept covid-19 as a recognised disease. While there may be a short-term cost, there is no point in their protecting short-term gains if they will lose customers in the medium term. I implore them to do the right thing, and to protect those businesses as much as possible.
Finally, let me record my thanks to, and pride in, our public services during this time of national crisis. They all provide a great service every single day, and it is our job to ensure that their sacrifices never go unnoticed. I am sure everyone in the House will agree that we stand by them, and do so proudly.