Protection of Jobs and Businesses

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:59 pm on 9th September 2020.

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Photo of Shabana Mahmood Shabana Mahmood Labour, Birmingham, Ladywood 1:59 pm, 9th September 2020

In my constituency of Birmingham, Ladywood up to 8,600 jobs are at risk if the Chancellor presses ahead with the removal of the furlough scheme and the self-employed income support scheme in October and if he does not change course and adopt a targeted continuation of both schemes for particularly hard hit sectors. My constituency already had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country before the pandemic hit. My fear is that if many of the jobs of those currently on wage support schemes go, then my area and my city will take much longer to recover than other parts of the country.

I want to make the case for the arts and entertainment sector. I know that many are making cases for different sectors in this debate, but there are 60,000 jobs in the arts and entertainment sector in my region of the west midlands, and Birmingham is at the heart of many of those jobs. My constituency encompasses the whole of the city centre, which is home to many of the venues and therefore the jobs in the sector. It is therefore crucial to my area and the social, cultural and economic life of Birmingham.

The sector is struggling because it cannot get back up and running like other sectors can. The public health advice and the laws that are in place because of public health mean that its businesses cannot get back to normal. In those circumstances, it is unconscionable that economic support does not follow where the public health rules lead us.

Everything we heard from those on the Treasury Bench today about the challenges in continuing a sector-specific wage support scheme sounds very hollow to all those who are desperately trying to save their jobs. The Government have shown real creativity in coming up with economic policy to deal with the impact of the pandemic, and that should not stop now. They should overcome the hurdles that are in place to adopt a sector-specific approach, because every job in every sector that is saved today or in the next few months will decrease the scale of the bills we will all face when we ultimately have to pay off the costs of this pandemic. The cost of supporting jobs and sectors facing total collapse—those businesses are going to go to the wall—will be cheaper than the cost of inaction, which will be much more expensive in the long run. The Government’s current approach, I am afraid to say, not only does not make economic sense, but fails the test of fairness, too.

In the short time left to me, I wish to make the case for Birmingham in particular, because we are due to host the Commonwealth games in 2022. If the heart of our arts and entertainment sector is ripped out from our city, we will not be able to see the full benefits of what the Commonwealth games could bring to the brilliant city of Birmingham. I urge the Treasury to take a region-specific approach and take into account factors such as international events, so that we can have the full benefits for all our constituents—benefits envisaged when we win such bids in the first place.