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Supporting Employment After Covid-19

Work and Pensions – in the House of Commons on 29th June 2020.

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Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Chair, Transport Committee, Chair, Transport Committee

What steps she plans to take with Cabinet colleagues to support employment after the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I am already actively working with a number of my Cabinet colleagues, particularly the Chancellor and the Secretaries of State for Education, for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, for Transport, and for Housing, Communities and Local Government—and of course the Prime Minister. This is a joined-up Government that is working hard to help people, in these challenging times, to get back into work as soon as possible.

Photo of Huw Merriman Huw Merriman Chair, Transport Committee, Chair, Transport Committee

Many of us are concerned about jobs in the aviation sector, particularly British Airways, which is not only making up to 12,500 redundancies but firing and rehiring virtually the remainder of the workforce, despite its group putting €1 billion into a new airline and BA staff putting 66% of profits into that group. What can the Government do to ensure that our employers do the right thing by the workforce who have previously delivered those profits?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has previously said to my hon. Friend, we are concerned about the way that some companies are treating their workforce and we are actively looking into the issue. The furlough scheme has been a huge success in keeping over 9 million employees connected to their jobs, but companies should not be using it cynically to keep people on their books just to then get rid of them. The whole point of the furlough scheme is to help people to get back into their jobs and the country back on its feet.

Photo of Seema Malhotra Seema Malhotra Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions) (Employment)

New analysis suggests that up to 1 million people could be added to the current jobless total unless more support is provided from August, with sectors like aviation being harder hit. We have learned from covid to plan early and to work together. However, last week’s DWP Committee report said that the Secretary of State has not provided any persuasive reason for her refusal to share her economic downturn plans. Why is a plan that is the basis of how we get millions of people back into work such a secret? Will she now work with her colleagues for a back-to-work budget so that local partnerships can plan together for what is coming?

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

I think the hon. Lady is confusing the element in the Select Committee report with the emergency contingency plan, which is an operational document that is prepared by all Departments in the event of the sort of emergency that requires, for example, redeployment within the Department. In terms of her broader question on what I think she was really referring to, I assure her that, as I pointed out, I am actively working with Ministers across the Government to make sure that we will be there to help people get into the new jobs that we rely on the private sector to create, but will be working across the public sector too.