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extension of leave to remain

Part of Coronavirus Bill – in the House of Commons at 8:45 pm on 23rd March 2020.

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Photo of Nick Thomas-Symonds Nick Thomas-Symonds Shadow Solicitor General, Shadow Minister (Home Office) (Security) 8:45 pm, 23rd March 2020

It is just as important, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that intervention.

Government new clause 16 increases the top threshold for the level of assistance that can be given to industry for the purpose of the economic crisis, and I welcome the proposed change. The Government must do what they can to prevent an economic disaster. However, I would also ask that the Government structure financial assistance to ensure that the Government bail-out supports the workforce, the sustainability of the company and the wider national interest. Perhaps the Minister can confirm, now or subsequently, that the Government will attach restrictions in areas such as staff retention, dividend buy-outs, share buy-backs and executive remuneration for any company receiving financial assistance, and whether the Government will seek equity stakes in those companies that receive significant assistance.

There is also the issue of renters, in respect of which the Government have tabled a new clause, and there is real concern about this. It was raised by my hon. Friend Sarah Jones on Second Reading. There is a concern about the Prime Minister and his promises to the country’s 20 million renters to protect them from evictions, because this does not seem to be an evictions ban, which is what the Opposition have argued for, and we understood was promised by the Prime Minister. The legislation does not seem to stop people losing their home as a result of coronavirus; it would just give them some extra time to pack their bags. In a sense, that makes us wonder why the Government are not willing to make a very simple change. I understand that my right hon. Friend John Healey wrote to Ministers to give them the legislation that would provide the protections, banning evictions and suspending rental payments beyond the crisis. There is already welcome help for homeowners, and I hope the Government will look again at their promises to renters. We do not need this public health emergency to become a crisis of housing and homelessness as well.

As the Government disturb people’s way of life, they must also sustain everyday existence, and people are anxious about sustaining themselves through this difficult time. There are millions of self-employed people not covered in the way they should be by the measures set out by the Chancellor, as a number of colleagues on both sides of the House have raised.