Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Financial and Social Emergency Support Package

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

Alert me about debates like this

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

I thank the hon. Gentleman for the question. I was not aware of the attack—I am afraid I have been focusing on our response to the coronavirus—but of course I share his concern and send our deep sympathy and condolences to the families of those involved. He has registered in this conversation in Parliament his point about the Home Office. We will, of course, provide support to them in the usual way in reaction to the coronavirus, as we would to any person living in this country.

Let me press on. As the Leader of the Opposition has rightly pointed out, the action of distancing one from another runs counter to human nature. We value our relationships with our friends and our family more than anything else. Communities thrive through social interaction. He rightly spoke of our interdependence, and this bears that out. Of course, businesses also rely on their physical as well as online connections to consumers in this country and overseas. When we think of people co-operating, let us not forget that business and, indeed, markets are often forms of human co-operation themselves. However difficult and painful this may be, at the present moment it is nevertheless essential. We must all play our part in this gigantic collective effort. Only through discipline, patience and community spirit can we turn the tide together. Now is the time for the country to come together behind this goal. As Burke said, the nation is a moral idea. It is the legitimacy of the nation that underwrites our capacity to intervene in people’s lives, and it is only by believing in each other that we will succeed in doing so.

The response from across the United Kingdom has already been magnificent—from the thousands of former medical staff now returning to the frontline alongside student nurses who have opted to begin their NHS careers early, to the world-class engineering firms working with us to ramp up production of ventilators, to the men and women of our armed forces, both regular and reserves, stepping up once again to serve their country. Coming from Hereford, I cannot think of them without paying them a special tribute.

I also pay tribute, as the Leader of the Opposition has done, to the thousands of key workers—shop assistants, pharmacists, delivery drivers, cleaners, police, firefighters, teachers and many others—who are keeping essential services running at this critical time, and of course to the legions of volunteers who are mobilising to support the elderly and vulnerable in their community. I have myself signed up for the NHS volunteer programme—it was a very straightforward process—and I would encourage any Member of this House who feels so inclined to do the same thing.

The whole country is united in common cause. We are a nation and a people with strength in depth, yet this pandemic represents a deep shock to the global economy. In this country, many of the restrictions now in place go even beyond some of those seen in wartime. There is concern among business for the future, among people for their jobs and wages, and among all of us for our loved ones and our neighbours. We in Government recognise all those concerns.