The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:08 pm on 8th July 2020.

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Photo of Olivia Blake Olivia Blake Labour, Sheffield, Hallam 5:08 pm, 8th July 2020

My hon. Friend makes a very valid point. The work that local authorities have been doing should be commended and rewarded. The Government have made promises that need to be kept in terms of funding, and I will watch to see whether they will fulfil them.

Nothing the Chancellor has said today addresses these issues. We were promised a green new deal. The £3 billion for home retrofits and energy efficiency in public buildings is welcome, but it is not a green new deal. It falls well short of the funding we need to kick-start a faltering economy and deliver the growth and green jobs that are vital for our recovery. We will see Governments across the globe act on a green recovery, and I am afraid that this will be a missed opportunity for the UK to help with a future crisis in the wake of this pandemic. We know that we are not out of the woods yet and we may be facing further hardship as a result of coronavirus. The medium to long-term impacts could be felt for generations. We need the Government to forge a path from which we can emerge with greater opportunities and a greener economy.

I welcome the extended access to funding for apprenticeships, but we cannot escape the fact that our further education sector has been decimated. We need accessible, lifelong learning to help us to pull through this global crisis. I am shocked that the only mention of universities in this whole package is £300 million for infrastructure and labs. That undermines the fact that research in this country is completely down to the amazing researchers that we have. We have seen redundancy processes started at multiple universities across the country, and this will be harmful to gender and black, Asian and minority ethnic representation in early careers. We risk having a lost generation of researchers in this country, and that will serve only to make us weaker in the future and reduce our productivity. It is absolutely vital that we see more from the Government on this.

The scale and ambition of the economic response to the coronavirus must match the scale of the challenges we face. As we come out of this public health crisis—if we do indeed come out of it—building back better requires that we do more than provide a plaster for the damage inflicted on the economy. It means addressing the fundamental problems in our economy—low growth, stagnating living standards, and poor pay and conditions. Unfortunately, the Government continue to offer nothing to address those issues. They say they will follow the science. I may have taken my lab coat off, but I hope I have given some food for thought.