The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:01 pm on 8th July 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment) 6:01 pm, 8th July 2020

I see the Economic Secretary to the Treasury in his place; I thank him for his correspondence in relation to the credit union sector. Credit unions are a very important part of financial life these days and I hope he will say something about them in his closing remarks.

The parts of today’s package that will help people to go into the hospitality sector and restaurants and buy meals is all fine and well, but we must also acknowledge that far too many people across these islands cannot afford food—they cannot afford to eat—and if it was not for the charitable sector rising up during this pandemic and providing food and meals for many people, there would have been an explosion in the use of food banks. I hope the Minister will also say something about the support that the charitable sector will receive, because it is an important part of what needs to be addressed.

On the Department for Work and Pensions package, I am still hoping we will get an answer today on the increase in the number of work coaches. The Department for Work and Pensions has said that it needs 30,000 additional staff to process universal credit claims and make sure that people are paid on time, so I would like to know if the announcement on work coaches refers to new staff or staff from somewhere else being redeployed. We need to know that and to know genuinely what the package is. We also need to know what training there is going to be for any new work coaches.

I have a real fear and concern that conditionality has been brought back too early, and that is a mistake by the Government. I hope I am wrong, but I think that reintroducing conditionality and the prospect of people being sanctioned from 1 July, as announced by the Department for Work and Pensions, was the wrong move to make.

I join the others from all parties who have mentioned the excluded. I mention in particular my constituent Stephanie Milne, who has written to me. She paid tax for 21 years through pay-as-you-earn and is now self-employed. We must remember that there are people who have been forced to be self-employed. There are people on zero-hours contracts who are not getting any of the support packages that are available. I have a real concern about that; it is the wrong decision.

Lastly, I have received a letter today from David Fulton, the Unite convenor at Thales, impressing on me and the Government how much support is required for the aerospace sector, which is an important sector not just for my constituents but across these islands.