Covid-19: Support for UK Industries

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:16 pm on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Anthony Browne Anthony Browne Conservative, South Cambridgeshire 4:16 pm, 25th June 2020

I should declare an interest: my wife’s business has taken advantage of some of the Government support.

During the pandemic, we have rightly paid tribute to the workers of the NHS and others who have looked after us at this time. I also pay tribute to the workers in the private sector who have been at the forefront of the economic crisis.

I have been involved with small businesses for a long time in my life. I can tell Members of the absolute terror that many people have felt in my constituency, seeing their business collapse and losing 100% of their income overnight. They are desperately trying to reorganise their business to save jobs, to survive and to pull through this pandemic. That is what I have been spending my lockdown doing.

Those businesses are also being incredibly versatile. The Chequers pub in Fowlmere, the village I grew up in, was one of the first in the country to turn itself into a takeaway. In my constituency is the headquarters of AstraZeneca, which now leads the world on producing the much hoped for vaccine. It said it will do it at cost and produce 1 billion doses. We all keep our fingers crossed that it will work.

I do not need to pay tribute to the Government support in all this because across the House we have been doing that, but I have been in awe of its scale and speed. The Government—in particular, the Treasury and HMRC—have been doing years of work in weeks. My constituents have been very grateful for that support. I have heard a lot of thanks and that people have only been able to keep their companies going because of the various different Government support schemes.

Yes, as we have heard, there are gaps. I am well aware of gaps in particular sectors and that some people fall through. I am on the Treasury Committee as well, and we have taken evidence about those gaps, but almost everyone can get some form of support. There is a reason why the schemes are designed as they are. There is a trade-off between complexity and speed. Had the Government made the schemes more complex, consulting on their detail and design, they could not have been rolled out at that record pace, helping all those different businesses.

The Government have been very flexible, such as with the CBILs. When the banks were not getting those loans out quickly enough, because they had to do affordability checks, the Government introduced the bounce-back loans, which enabled them to roll out support far more quickly. However, I urge the Government to keep under review—as I am sure they will—their support schemes over the rest of the crisis.

The best way to help businesses is to get the economy going again. We should have three priorities: growth, growth and growth. Private enterprise has taken the brunt of this recession and private enterprise will lead us out of it. I urge us all to unite in supporting businesses as we move forwards.