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Financial and Social Emergency Support Package

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:34 pm on 25th March 2020.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party 1:34 pm, 25th March 2020

It is absolutely disgraceful and totally unnecessary. If someone feels they are at risk, the advice from the Department of Health is that they should self-isolate—and eventually get tested, but clearly the tests are not available immediately. If the employer then forces that person to go into work, we all know what the consequences will be. There is a responsibility on employers as well in all this.

I hope that the Government will take action to close building sites, provide the workers with the necessary economic support and tell the companies that this should not be seen as an opportunity to cut their workers’ wages by 20%; they are getting 80% from public funds and they should make up the rest with the profits they make on big construction projects. Many people on construction sites are, sadly, self-employed, which is a slightly different issue that I referred to earlier.

As we look beyond the crisis we should all give workers respect, with proper social security extending to the self-employed as well. We have to understand that we have a very different economy than we had 10, 20 or 30 years ago. A very large number of people are self-employed. They are making their contribution. They deserve respect, recognition and the necessary social security support: full rights for workers, including those in the gig economy.

We must raise statutory sick pay to European levels. The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care said, honestly, that he could not survive on £94 a week. I suspect that most Members would not want to survive on £94 a week and most probably could not survive on £94 a week, so how can expect others to do so? We are saying that they have to survive on £94 a week and we cannot. It is up to us to say that in this crisis we have to increase it, so that people can have a survivable income. Looking beyond the crisis, no one should become poor just because they become ill. Many people have been shocked—I have spoken to self-employed people—to find just how low statutory sick pay is. They imagined statutory sick pay was something they could live on. They did not realise what it actually was. Even more shocking is that disabled people on employment and support allowance are expected to survive on £73 a week, as are those on jobseeker’s allowance. Those figures are disgraceful. People cannot live on that sort of money, so they will be forced to take risks and therefore put us all at risk. For carers, it is even less money. Carers allowance is just £66 a week. That is simply unacceptable.

Right now, we have to give support and security to renters in the private rented sector. The Government promised 20 million of them a ban on evictions, but then broke their promise. Emergency legislation does not stop people losing their home due to coronavirus; it just gives them three months in which to pack their bags. This public health emergency will become a housing and homeless emergency if the Government do not change course now on the treatment of people in the private rented sector. All of us represent large numbers of people in the private rented sector, none more so than my hon. Friend Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who I know represents a very large number.