Covid-19: Support for UK Industries

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:31 pm on 25th June 2020.

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Photo of Sarah Olney Sarah Olney Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (International Trade), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 4:31 pm, 25th June 2020

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker; I appreciate you giving me time to speak in this really important debate. My constituents have been in touch with me about this issue more than any other during the crisis. The crisis has revealed the complexity of the UK economy. It is a feature of our country’s creativity, energy and innovativeness that we host such a vast array of industries and businesses within our island nation. That is reflected in the myriad ways that people earn a living.

I am a member of the Public Accounts Committee, and we were taken aback at a recent hearing to find that the Government’s preparation for a pandemic did not include preparation for its economic impact. That left the Treasury with the huge task of devising and delivering its economic rescue plans when the lockdown started, and I pay tribute to it for what it was able to achieve in such a short period. As many Members on both sides of the House have pointed out, the job retention scheme—the furlough scheme—has been invaluable in supporting household incomes during this extremely difficult time. But it is clear that support was focused on those who earn salaries and pay mortgages, and, tragically, many sectors and workers were missed out. I urge the Minister to consider the lessons for future lockdown planning, although we all hope that this will not be necessary in the immediate future. The biggest tragedy is that many of those who missed out are the ones who will be most instrumental in rebuilding the economy in the months to come—our small businesses, our entrepreneurs, our freelancers, those who have taken a risk on a new business idea or taken on a new job. The Government must focus their investment on our key industries and those that will take the longest to recover.

I spoke earlier today in this place about the necessity of supporting theatres, and I extend that to the whole creative sector. Not only are they a huge earner for us abroad, but they reflect British values across the globe and are instrumental in so many ways. Beyond that, for all of us who have spent months staring at our laptop screens, it will be essential to enjoy live music and live theatre again. I spoke earlier about the necessity of using education programmes, which theatre companies and other parts of the creative sector are so good at, to engage our young people once again.

My hon. Friend Jamie Stone spoke passionately about the tourism and hospitality sector, and it is essential that we support all these industries through the next few months. We do not just need to support our workers in these industries; we need to plot out a strategy for their survival and recovery. If the right people get the right help now, they will be ready to revive the economy as soon as they are able to.