Covid-19: Support for UK Industries

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:07 pm on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion 4:07 pm, 25th June 2020

Many of my constituents have signed the petitions triggering this debate and, in particular, are calling for a dedicated programme of support for our events, cultural and creative industries. Anyone who knows Brighton and Hove cannot fail to be aware that we are home to some of the country’s most vibrant, creative and successful festivals. We lead the way nationally as well in widening access to the arts and unleashing the creative lives as yet unlived in excluded communities. Failing to directly support the creative sector puts 16,000 jobs at risk in our city alone and £1.5 billion in turnover. The consequences for the UK as a whole will be equally devastating, including for our sense of identity as a nation, which is inextricably bound up with cultural innovation from Chaucer to Banksy.

I call on Ministers to introduce urgent life support measures as other European countries have done. Germany, for example, has invested in a €50 billion rescue package. We need a similar cultural sector hardship relief fund to save live music venues, grassroots theatres, arts centres, community pubs, and any space that is a vital hub of culture and social interaction in our communities. Live music venues in my constituency are particularly at risk, and face a cliff edge when furlough ends. As one, Komedia, wrote to me,

“A world without grassroots venues is a world where the future’s talent never get the opportunity they deserve”.

I urge Ministers not to stand by and watch them go to the wall.

Those working in the events and creative industries are often self-employed and need their incomes protecting, too. Yet the self-employed scheme falls far short, failing to recognise the reality of self-employment today, penalising those who combine self-employment with PAYE work, PAYE freelancers, new start-ups and the recently self-employed, women who have taken time out for maternity leave and childcare, and anyone earning £50,000 and over. It is also a kick in the teeth for the nation’s small limited companies whose directors take all or part of their income in dividends. Therefore, as well as expanding access to the self-employed scheme, the Government must immediately extend its duration. The self-employed are still only protected until August, and that is not equivalent to the job retention scheme and it is not enough.

This must also be a green recovery in more than name, because of the accelerating climate emergency—it is currently 45 degrees in the Arctic—and because it makes economic sense as well. Plenty of evidence shows that green projects create more jobs, deliver higher returns on investment and lead to increased long-term cost savings. A green new deal recovery should invest only in industries willing and prepared to adapt to the net zero imperative. If public money is being used to bail out a company, there should be green and social conditions attached. We should not be handing over £600 million to easyJet with no questions asked.  We should not be bailing out BA when it is treating its workers so appallingly.

Finally, a green recovery requires rethinking our entire economy, so that its primary purpose is human and planetary wellbeing, rather than the endless pursuit of indiscriminate GDP growth, which is destroying our planet and undermining the livelihoods of millions of people.