I beg to move,
That this House
calls for the Government to abandon its one-size-fits-all withdrawal of the Coronavirus Job Retention and Self-Employment Income Support Schemes, and instead offer targeted income support to businesses and self-employed people in those sectors of the economy that have been hardest hit by the virus and are most in need of continuing assistance, and in those areas of the country which have been placed under local restrictions due to rising rates of infection.
Our country is in the grip of a jobs crisis—a crisis that will intensify if the Conservative Government do not change course. Between April and June this year, the number of people in work fell by the largest amount in over a decade. By July, there were nearly three quarters of a million fewer employees on the payroll than there were just four months earlier. We know that these are extraordinary times. That is why Labour has acted as a constructive Opposition, working with the Government, businesses and trade unions to do all we can to save lives and livelihoods. But it is not enough for the Government now to say simply that this is an unprecedented crisis and that only so much can be done to mitigate the damage. In their amendment to this Opposition day motion, the Conservatives maintain that
I repeat, any—
“from this Government’s proposed plan will cause damage to the United Kingdom economy.”
Some humility, willingness to listen and flexibility is desperately required here.
Under this Government, the UK has suffered the highest number of excess deaths in Europe. It has experienced both the worst quarterly fall in GDP in Europe and the worst quarterly fall among all G7 nations. The evidence suggests that the number of job vacancies in the UK has fallen further than in any comparable economy and that it will take us many months to get back to pre-crisis levels.
Our people have suffered a double whammy: a health crisis coupled with a jobs crisis, both made worse, I regret to say, by the Government’s unwillingness to listen, learn and accept that they do not always know best. But there is still time to change course. Around 4 million people are still furloughed under the Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme. Another 2.7 million people have so far made claims under the self-employment income support scheme, the second and final phase of which has just opened. Many more people have not yet had any support from this Government at all and have fallen through the gaps between the various schemes.