Covid-19: Support for UK Industries

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:52 pm on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Armed Forces), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence) 3:52 pm, 25th June 2020

I am going to make two points. The first is one that other Members have touched on. There are 3 million small limited companies, from taxi drivers to people in the creative industries, who still are being excluded from Government rescue measures. Many of those are not eligible for universal credit, so I add my plea to that of others: please, please, can the Government try to help those people?

The second point I want to make is about tourism. It occurs to me that I shall be repeating myself, inasmuch as I talked about this very subject some two or three weeks ago, although, now I think about it, I was up on the screens all around the Chamber—not a very pleasant sight, I fancy, so perhaps I should take the opportunity to apologise for any trauma I caused to right hon. and hon. Members.

It has been an incredibly long winter in the highlands of Scotland, and it is not over yet. We hope that the tourism businesses will go back in business on 15 July, but they are by their very nature seasonal. They make their money during the tourism season to survive the winter. That is the fat that they live on to see them through to the next tourism season, and I fear very much that many of the tourism businesses in my constituency, even starting on 15 July, will not put enough cash in the bank to see them through.

Of course, if they go down and they fail, the following year we have a reduced tourism product to offer people to bring them back to the highlands of Scotland. The same is true of Anglesey; it is true all over the UK. Our tourism product must be safeguarded and garnered and encouraged.

I know from what I have said in the past that I have the support of right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of this House on this issue, and I am grateful for that. My hon. Friend and colleague Tim Farron has indeed been talking about this matter, and I support him. I also know that within the Scottish Government Fergus Ewing, the Minister responsible, is big on this as well.

I guess my plea is this: I believe, as does my hon. Friend, that we will have to have some specially tailored package, based on the measures that the Government have rightly put in place at the moment, to try to help the tourism industry through the longer period. I do not know what the answer is, but there are very many clever people who work in Her Majesty’s Treasury, and perhaps something could be thought up about that.

I hope there will be discussions between the Scottish Government and Fergus Ewing, and Her Majesty’s Treasury and appropriate Ministers. I would be deeply grateful if this issue could be taken seriously, because if tourism goes down the tubes in my constituency, frankly, the economy will be damaged irreparably. That means people will lose their livelihoods and the curse of the highland clearances could come back to haunt us yet again.