Statutory Sick Pay and Protection for Workers

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:03 pm on 18th March 2020.

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Photo of Wes Streeting Wes Streeting Labour, Ilford North 2:03 pm, 18th March 2020

I wholeheartedly agree.

Let me conclude on this point. In the aftermath of the last financial crisis, the Labour Government—and, in fact, the reputation of the Labour party—were utterly trashed because Gordon Brown’s Government took the courageous steps that were needed to prevent a financial crisis in America, which became a global financial crisis, from becoming a depression, which would have meant people being unable to take money out of the banks. The Government were right then not to be squeamish about borrowing to make sure that our country got through it, and this Government should not be squeamish now.

I suspect that by the end of this the Government will own such a large stake of the British economy that it will make Labour’s last manifesto look positively conservative in its ambitions by comparison. If that is what it takes to see us through this crisis, that is what the Government will have to do that. We are going to need a wartime response to get us through this crisis, so let us think now about the peace that will follow. Just as our generation looks back with pride at the decisions that the 1945 Attlee Government took and the legacy that they left, let us think now about the legacy that we will leave for our country. Let us make the choices now that lessen inequality in our country and provide genuine social security in the best of times, not just the worst of times.

Let us ask how it was that political choices left our social care system at breaking point and the people languishing in it more exposed to this pandemic than they would otherwise have been. Let us repair our broken social care system by making brave political choices. Let us care more about how we fund the living to lead a good life than about how we tax the dead. Let us make sure that, when people get to old age, they are not just looking back on a life well lived, but able to live life to the full until the end. Let us make sure that, when people get to old age, they are not just looking back on a life well lived, but able to live life to the full until the end.

Let us see this as a wake-up call. If a pandemic can seriously disrupt the labour market, and we have to provide serious income protection to see it through, let us think about what a technological revolution will do as it displaces, relocates and significantly changes the shape of the labour market. Let us make sure that we have the social protections needed now to face the next revolution, not just the current crisis. Let us not let the global pandemic distract us from the urgency of the climate emergency. Let us make sure that our recovery is a green recovery.

Finally, let us no longer listen to the siren calls of the populists and the nativists who believe that countries can go it alone, and that we have to build a world where we are all in it for ourselves. Let us recognise that global problems require global solutions and global leadership through global institutions. As the Attlee Government rebuilt the fabric of the country through a new welfare state and built international institutions, let us to resolve to do the same.