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Financial and Social Emergency Support Package

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:08 pm on 25th March 2020.

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Photo of Jesse Norman Jesse Norman The Financial Secretary to the Treasury 2:08 pm, 25th March 2020

It is a privilege to return to the Dispatch Box for the third time in two days, and I can only pay tribute to your fortitude and resilience in being in the Chair for much of the time I have been at the Dispatch Box, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am opening this debate on behalf of the Government and I would like to pay tribute now to Jeremy Corbyn, in case this is his last appearance at the Dispatch Box as Leader of the Opposition. May I also associate myself with the very warm comments that he and others have made about Tristan Garel-Jones, who was widely loved and admired across this House?

I thank the Opposition and the leadership of the other political parties for their constructive and supportive approach over the past few weeks, which is reflected across the House. Truly, these are extraordinary times. Our country has not faced a threat of this magnitude since the second world war. It is astonishing to think that it was just two weeks ago today that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his first Budget, standing at this Dispatch Box. I can say from direct personal experience that the Chancellor, Her Majesty’s Treasury and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs officials have worked around the clock before and since that time. Our single goal has been to do whatever it takes to support the British people at a time of crisis.

That Budget laid the foundations for a coherent, comprehensive and co-ordinated plan to limit, mitigate and address the impact of coronavirus, with a £12 billion package of support for public services, businesses and individuals. It was an unprecedented intervention by this or any recent Government, yet it has proved to be—and how—merely the first step. From the outset of the crisis, the Government have been clear that they are ready to do whatever it takes. Last week, we announced further support for businesses and individuals, including a £330 billion package of business loan guarantees. Only yesterday, I took through the House the Contingencies Fund Bill, which increased the cash-flow financing to Departments to £266 billion, pending the main estimates.