Protection of Jobs and Businesses

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:56 pm on 9th September 2020.

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Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Conservative, Wimbledon 1:56 pm, 9th September 2020

Across the House today, we have heard recognition of the extraordinary support that the Government have put in place for the economy and British businesses. Like my right hon. Friend Caroline Nokes, I pay tribute to the Treasury team and the Parliamentary Private Secretaries who have been supporting us and many of our businesses with queries.

It has been mentioned that nationally, we are paying the wages of 9.6 million people. Of course, people find national statistics very difficult to relate to, so in Wimbledon, 12,100 people were furloughed, 4,200 people have benefited from the self-employed scheme, there has been £76.8 million of bounce back loans, which have helped over 2,000 businesses, and CBILS has helped 99 businesses. Inevitably, as the country returns to work and the post-economy starts to revive, we will see a very different mixture in the economy. Some industries and sectors will inevitably be impacted on in a way that we had not expected and there will be an adjustment. We would be wrong to try to pretend that that is not going to happen. Surely, therefore, a plan for jobs and a kickstart scheme is right, rather than a continuation of the furlough scheme, and the plan for jobs must look at protecting and creating jobs.

On the protection of jobs, I spoke about the arts sector in the pre-recess debate, and I hope that the announcement today from the Chief Secretary will extend to the arts sector. On the plan for jobs and where we are looking to create them, there must be a mixture of skills programmes to equip people coming into the workforce with skills for the future. The future is key, both in the Government’s announcement, rightly, about the acceleration of capital investment and in the £600 billion that they are talking about in terms of future prosperity. Certainly, in terms of infrastructure investment, I urge Treasury Ministers to look at what is fibre investment and what is iron investment—we need more fibre and less iron.

Finally, as we look to the future, it must be right in the short term that we concentrate our efforts on the growth programme. That is entirely right in terms of infrastructure. However, if we look to the medium term, beyond the growth ideas coming from many parts of the House—I commend for some notable growth ideas the One Nation Conservatives caucus group paper, which, surprisingly, I edited and authored, along with many other colleagues —we must put our economy and finances on a sound basis. I urge the Treasury, as we look to the medium term, not to rule out any of the economic levers that we are looking at to support the economy now in order to restore sound finances in the future.