The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:07 pm on 8th July 2020.

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Photo of Munira Wilson Munira Wilson Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Transport), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Health and Social Care) 6:07 pm, 8th July 2020

Although many of the measures announced today are welcome and will help create jobs down the track, there are millions of small businesses and self-employed individuals whose livelihoods are going under today, and these entrepreneurs are the growth drivers of our economy. Today’s statement was a missed opportunity to plug the gaps in the Chancellor’s coronavirus support schemes. The Minister knows very well who these 3 million excluded are. With over 11,000 self-employed in my constituency, I have been inundated with messages from those left out in the cold—heart-breaking stories of ordinary, hard-working people who help to keep our economy and our society ticking, like the single mother of a child with special needs who decided to switch to being self-employed just last year so she could better support her son.

Many of these self-employed individuals and small businesses are in the sectors that will be among the last to recover from this crisis: creative industries, including arts and entertainment; travel; and events companies. Many businesses have inexplicably been asked to remain closed while pubs and others are open. They have already been mentioned today: beauticians in our high streets; complementary therapists; elite gymnastics clubs, such as the Richmond Gymnastics Association; and swimming pools, such as the open-air Hampton pool in my constituency. Not only are these businesses and establishments important to the local economy and at risk of going bust; they also have an important role to play in promoting health and wellbeing.

I want briefly to comment on two sectors. The arts fund announced earlier this week was very welcome, if long overdue and late for many, but it fails to support the highly skilled individuals who make the UK’s world- leading industry what it is: the freelance cameramen and women, make-up artists, costume makers and sound engineers. We cannot afford to lose these skills and small businesses from our economy, and they need support now. Importantly, the arts fund must trickle down to local venues, which are central to our local economies, such as the Landmark Arts Centre, Hampton Hill Theatre and The Exchange in my constituency.

The travel industry will take a long time to recover. Locally, I have a number of small independent tour operators and AITO The Specialist Travel Association, representing 120 members, which employs 4,000 people across the UK. They are not looking for a bail-out. They need a temporary change to the package travel regulations, as many other European countries have done, where Government endorse refund credit notes.

In the short term, these sectors can be enabled to kick-start the recovery now. In the longer term, the Chancellor has talked a good game on green jobs, but his announcement today does not go nearly far enough. We need an ambitious green recovery package that seeks to insulate every home in the next 10 years and massively expand renewable energy and new air quality standards. That is why it is also time that the Government put the final nail in the coffin of any plans to build a third runway at Heathrow.