Covid-19: Support for UK Industries

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:19 pm on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Taiwo Owatemi Taiwo Owatemi Labour, Coventry North West 4:19 pm, 25th June 2020

Thank you for calling me to speak in this important, Madam Deputy Speaker.

The full effect of the coronavirus pandemic has yet to be felt, but we have already seen the impact that this invisible disease is having on my city of Coventry and on the United Kingdom. Sadly, in the months to June, as many as 270 people lost their lives to the virus in my city, according to the Office for National Statistics. Our normal way of life has changed, and some of us have mourned the loss of friends and family.

We have seen lay-offs in companies large and small. According to the Library, in Coventry North West there were 4,630 claimants for unemployment benefit; a further 3,200 claims were made to the self-employment income support scheme, which is equivalent to 71% of the potentially eligible population; and there are currently 13,100 jobs on furlough through the job retention scheme. Although the Government’s support package is commendable, my fear is that it may mask the true extent of the crisis in our jobs market, and these figures do not show those without recourse to public funds, who may be eligible for the Government’s covid-19 support package, but are unable readily to claim vital welfare benefits. I will briefly highlight causes for concern in my patch and businesses that have been affected by this crisis.

Let me turn first to the job losses at Rolls-Royce in Ansty. The UK’s aerospace sector is world-leading, supporting hundreds of jobs directly in my constituency through the supply chain. Rolls-Royce’s announcement to cut 65 jobs from its workforce of 167 at Ansty is hugely disappointing. The site is renowned for its expertise, being the only one that can weld the veins of plane propellers. From my conversations with staff and union reps at the site, I understand that they fear the company is using coronavirus as an excuse to ship jobs outside the UK, and to rehire staff on worse contracts here and abroad. There are also concerns that this move has been in the works, as their pensions will also change. Is this what the Government meant by global Britain—allowing companies such as Rolls-Royce to receive research and development funding, and job retention money, while they ship British jobs overseas?

The arts are also under threat. The brilliant Belgrade theatre in Coventry is losing income. Small businesses such as Exhibit 3Sixty have also been in touch with my office. Exhibit 3Sixty is an award-winning and successful exhibition stand design and build company based in Coventry with six permanent employees and 12 self-employed tradesmen and women. My office has been supporting Alan Craner, the managing director, who has applied for the retail, hospitality and leisure grant fund, but has been refused. Despite the Chancellor’s statement on 17 March, when he appeared to say that the exhibition sector was eligible for the same help that is available to businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sector, it seems that there is no special support for companies like Mr Craner’s. Will the Minister meet me—virtually, of course—so that I can present my cases and he can provide clarity on the support available?