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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

We have discussed this quite a lot, so as I have quite a long speech, and a fair number of colleagues want to speak, I will press on, if I may.

We must face facts: it may take several weeks—possibly longer—before this national effort is reflected in a fall in infection rates, and it may take longer still to defeat the virus completely, but however long it takes, we will do what we can to support businesses and workers. As the House will know, under the jobs retention scheme, the Government will pay 80% of staff wages up to £2,500, provided businesses keep those staff employed. Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is working tirelessly to get the scheme up and running. The first grants will be made in a matter of weeks.

Of course businesses face cash-flow concerns, and we are recognising that through the business interruption loan scheme. For larger enterprises, the Bank of England is providing a new facility to help overall liquidity, and HMRC’s existing time to pay arrangements are available to help businesses make ends meet. We have deferred VAT payments for the next quarter, so that VAT-registered businesses will not need to pay VAT alongside their normal returns; that intervention alone is worth over £30 billion. Those measures are on top of those announced in the Budget earlier this month.

As colleagues across the House have mentioned, this is a particularly worrying time for the self-employed. I am acutely aware, as are all Ministers, of how deeply these concerns are felt across the House. Let me be clear that the Government recognise the specific challenges that self-employed people face. We will respond shortly. There has already been discussion of this, and a commitment from the Prime Minister on this issue, with tailored and targeted action. As the Chancellor has said, this problem is very far from straightforward. We are trying to be as inclusive, but also as fair, as possible.