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Financial and Social Emergency Support Package

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:11 pm on 25th March 2020.

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Photo of Kevan Jones Kevan Jones Labour, North Durham 4:11 pm, 25th March 2020

I know that all right hon. and hon. Members will want to pass on their condolences to the family and friends of the 435 people who have died in this coronavirus epidemic. Each of those deaths is a personal tragedy for them and their families, and, sadly, we know that there will be more in the coming days and weeks. I also want to put on the record my thanks to those working in the NHS, our vital emergency services, including the police; the civil service; and to local government officers, some of whom are working round the clock; retail distribution workers; postal workers; and those in our armed forces. Mention was made earlier of cleaners, whom we should thank in particular, because they are going to be important in fighting this epidemic. We need to be honest and say that these are fraught times and tempers may get frayed in the coming weeks and months, but may I urge people not to take it out on the individuals who are there working on our behalf—shop workers and others—who will be vital in getting us through this crisis?

I am disappointed that the Government have not brought forward measures to support the self-employed. Last Thursday, I raised the case of Andrew Brown, a graphic designer in my constituency whose business folded overnight last week. Since then, I have been inundated with questions from individuals who are in real need—taxi drivers, self-employed individuals, and people who run businesses. Let me say to the Minister, as I said to the Chancellor last week, that these individuals do not have recourse to independent wealth and do not have masses of savings. In most cases, they are living and working week to week. Some, such as taxi drivers, have ongoing bills, for example for the rental of cars, that they have to meet. If they cannot work, they do not have recourse to funds that they can suddenly find somewhere else. It is important that a sense of urgency is brought into this, and I am not sure the Government recognise the deep upset, hurt and fear that these people are facing.