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Financial and Social Emergency Support Package

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:46 pm on 25th March 2020.

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Photo of Simon Clarke Simon Clarke Minister of State (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 5:46 pm, 25th March 2020

I begin by offering the deepest thanks and praise of all of us in this House for all those working to deliver essential services to the public across the country. The way they have come together is nothing short of astounding. Equally astounding is the fact that the Prime Minister confirmed this afternoon that, in the past 24 hours, 400,000 Britons have signed up to act as volunteers to support our NHS, which is an incredible statement of the shared sense of purpose we all feel in this unique national endeavour.

I want to address directly every individual working to deliver an essential public service or a business, or to support their local community during this crisis, from NHS employees, local government workers, care workers and community volunteers through to those keeping our supermarket shelves full: you are keeping this country running and collectively helping to shoulder the burden, and we thank you. The whole House will want to join me in recognising the contribution they have already made and will no doubt continue to make over this period of crisis. We need the help of the British public to ensure that we beat the virus as quickly as we can and, above all, we need them to stay inside whenever possible.

This is the worst public health crisis in any of our lifetimes. The Government are responding, and we aspire to make our measures as comprehensive as we possibly can. A national crisis needs a national response and we are offering UK-wide support to ensure that people in all four corners of the country are receiving help.

Whatever resources the NHS needs, it will get. As an aside, today we have agreed with local councils in England to provide free parking for our NHS and social care workers as they fight coronavirus. I am working closely with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Chancellor and other ministerial colleagues across Government to ensure that public services receive the funding they need to get their residents through this crisis. That means supporting those on the frontline; those who are in a dispensable. Generous tributes have been paid to them in excellent speeches from my hon. Friend Sir David Amess, Sarah Jones—I will return to some of the points she made—the hon. Members for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh), for Brent Central (Dawn Butler), for Gordon (Richard Thomson) and for Coventry South (Zarah Sultana), as well as Lloyd Russell-Moyle, whom we are all glad to see back in his place after recovering from the virus, Chris Stephens, the right hon. Members for North Durham (Mr Jones) and for East Ham (Stephen Timms), the latter an expert in all matters to do with the welfare system, and the hon. Members for Sefton Central (Bill Esterson) and for Newcastle upon Tyne Central (Chi Onwurah). I thank everyone who has taken part in this afternoon’s debate. I assure all hon. Members that the Government are absolutely resolved to do whatever is necessary to support public services and authorities through the response to the coronavirus.

In normal times, I am a convinced believer in an agile state supporting free enterprise, which delivers jobs and revenue for our public services. The hon. Member for Newcastle upon Tyne Central gave a paean to the power of the market, but she is right: these are not normal times. In this strictly limited period, we must all accustom ourselves to a relationship between the state and civic society that is unprecedented in peacetime.