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 5:11 pm on 25th March 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of John Martin McDonnell John Martin McDonnell Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer 5:11 pm, 25th March 2020

Profiteering businesses need to recognise that reputational damage to their operations will last beyond the crisis.

The point I was making is that if we are to be serious in this war-like situation about defeating the enemy, we have to go all the way. People and businesses need absolute certainty. The Prime Minister said that all businesses should close down unless they have an essential role to play in the fight against the coronavirus, or unless the business can continue to operate with staff working from home.

Let us be clear: construction sites should be closed down, unless they are building health facilities. They should close now. They are putting lives at risk by operating still. The Scottish First Minister says they should close, and the Mayor of London says they should, but the Government are allowing them to continue.

I have spoken to construction workers and their unions in recent days. They have told me that social distancing on a building site, as anyone who has worked on one will say, is just not possible. For some roles, it would not be safe either.

Yesterday, unfortunately, the Health Secretary tried to blame the Mayor of London for reduced services on the London underground. Earlier in the day, the Mayor had explained that some 20% of staff on the London underground are either off sick or self-isolating as a precaution, and that the tube was running at the maximum capacity it could, given those constraints. Construction company Taylor Wimpey—I praise it—has taken the responsible decision to shut down all its sites, and I commend that.

The Government must back workers and their unions who refuse to work in unsafe workplaces. The Government—let us be clear—must order workplaces to close if they are not essential to the fight against the virus. Businesses and workers need the clarity that they deserve. The Government also needs to reassure those businesses that they can furlough their workers, the directly employed and others.