The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:42 pm on 8th July 2020.

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Photo of Gerald Jones Gerald Jones Shadow Minister (Wales) 5:42 pm, 8th July 2020

We are undoubtedly in unprecedented and challenging times, and although today’s announcements by the Chancellor are welcome, they do not go anywhere near far enough. While the support provided through the Government’s furlough and other schemes has been welcome, there are still as many as 3 million people in the UK who are missing out on an income through no fault of their own and are being left behind by this Government, with many struggling to feed their families. In his statement, the Chancellor said to businesses,

“if you stand by your workers, we will stand by you”,

but he needs to stand by those who are excluded, such as new starters, freelancers and the self-employed people who have fallen through the gaps in the current schemes.

We also heard nothing from the Chancellor about what financial support he will offer to people who are asked to self-isolate as part of the test and trace procedures. For these schemes to work properly, people need to know that if they self-isolate, they will have proper, realistic sick pay or financial support to feed their families. There are businesses in my constituency and across the country that are suffering and may never recover if the financial support they need is not forthcoming. I urge the Government to commit to revisiting the parameters of the schemes now, so that nobody affected will miss out during these most difficult times.

As my hon. Friend Chris Bryant said, the floods caused by Storm Dennis in February caused millions of pounds of damage in his constituency and mine and across the country. The Prime Minister committed to me at PMQs on 26 February that funding would be “passported through” to Wales to assist in the rebuilding of infrastructure damaged by floods. The Welsh Government have worked with local authorities, including Merthyr Tydfil, Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council—the most affected areas—and others to gather evidence on the scale and cost of the damage. That has been submitted to the Treasury for a bid under the UK reserve, yet no answers have been forthcoming from the Treasury.

The floods were unprecedented, and our councils could never be expected to cover the costs without support. While the Welsh Government have stepped in, they have also been subjected to huge austerity cuts from the UK Government, so the support they can offer is limited. Can the Minister give an undertaking this afternoon to provide an update—either here today or in writing later—on when the UK Government will deliver on the Prime Minister’s commitment to support Welsh communities? If the Union is to mean anything, the support must be forthcoming. The strength of our Union is highlighted when we support each other in times of need.

Time does not permit me to go into the next thing that I wanted to talk about, which was the shared prosperity fund, but I will say briefly that we have waited since 2018 for a consultation on how this fund is due to work and what share of it Wales will get. I urge the Minister to take note of that and ensure that we get clarity on the shared prosperity fund as soon as possible. With only four seconds left, I ask the Minister to take note of those comments.