The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:24 pm on 8th July 2020.

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Photo of Karin Smyth Karin Smyth Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland) 4:24 pm, 8th July 2020

I was in the Chamber when my hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor spoke earlier and it was obvious that the Prime Minister was visibly irritated by her comments, particularly those on public health and test and trace. However, as was echoed by my hon. Friends the Members for Ilford North (Wes Streeting) and for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood), we cannot separate the public health crisis, and the way in which the Government responded to it, from the response needed to the economic crisis. I am not an economist, but I have spent a lot of time in the health service and I know that we cannot rebuild the economy unless we build that public confidence. We saw last weekend that people start going back to places only when they know it is safe to do so.

At the beginning of this crisis, with my experience working in emergency planning in the health service, I thought the Government would revert to the usual tried and tested processes that were in place and that they would trust local government public health officials to trace people properly, as they know how to do. I have been totally shocked—I will admit, perhaps naïvely—at how incompetent the Government have been with their national imposition around the entire system, which has failed us so badly and led to so many excess deaths. Only belatedly are they turning to local government and that local public health expertise that does exist. Local government needs proper funding to continue to do that work to get a proper system in place so that people have the confidence to go back and support the economy. We cannot separate the two.

What we have had today is not a strategy for the future; it is not ambitious. I want the Government to succeed in putting the economy back together. I have three young people at home. I am desperately worried about the future for young people. Bristol South was devastated by the recession in the 1980s and people still bear the scars of that loss of jobs and loss of security, as well as the impact on people’s physical and mental health. I want the Government to do much better.

Most businesses in Bristol South are small and medium-sized enterprises and there are many freelancers. They are not getting the support that they need. Women are more likely to be in shut-down sectors, particularly in retail and hospitality. Women—in fact, all families—cannot work unless there is decent child care and social care in place. The Women’s Budget Group—