The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:37 pm on 8th July 2020.

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Photo of Mark Eastwood Mark Eastwood Conservative, Dewsbury 4:37 pm, 8th July 2020

Even before the Government’s announcement today, they had already put in place an unprecedented support package for businesses, employers and employees, which has provided a vital lifeline throughout the coronavirus emergency. By the beginning of June, the job retention scheme had safeguarded 12,900 jobs in my constituency alone. Nationally, more than 1.1 million employers have used it to protect more than 9.3 million jobs. The self-employed income support scheme has paid out more than £10 million across Dewsbury, Mirfield, Kirkburton and Denby Dale.

Those essential schemes were put together at a rapid pace, and it is testament to the dedication of Ministers and officials that they are being delivered. I also thank Ministers for listening to my voice and those of Back-Bench colleagues, recognising the limitations of the business support fund and implementing the local authority discretionary grant scheme, which has allowed local authorities to provide targeted support to those businesses that had slipped through the gap.

I welcome all the measures announced by the Chancellor earlier. I particularly welcome the focus placed on skills and apprenticeships, a key part of my election campaign. The measures announced in his statement will be a huge boost for apprenticeships. Clearly, we must avoid the risk of young people losing out on skills development at such a key stage of their lives. The measures announced earlier see off that risk, both safeguarding and incentivising apprenticeships. Alongside the kick-start scheme, high-quality traineeships and more places for level 2 and 3 courses, this shows the Government’s commitment to our young people and to boosting skills. I will continue to provide my support to Kirklees College and other local organisations to promote skills and apprenticeships. The national skills fund announced in the Budget earlier this year will be a significant scheme to assist people in retraining and adapting post covid-19. I urge the Government to ensure that it has a timely delivery, to provide long-term skills support.

We are not yet through coronavirus. Some sectors of the economy remain closed until they can reopen in a covid-secure way. The Chancellor indicated that there will be a third phase, when we will rebuild. Once we are free of coronavirus, we will need a programme as ambitious as the announcements today. It will need to focus on giving more flexibility to businesses, boosting jobs and local infrastructure. I hope to work with Ministers to secure key infrastructure investment across my constituency, looking at the feasibility of the Flockton bypass, essential improvements to Mirfield railway station and much-needed upgrades along the Penistone line. I will continue to work closely with businesses and the self-employed in my constituency to minimise the impact of covid-19 and ensure that they prosper after this pandemic has passed.