We stand in this country at a crossroads in our economy, with profound implications for future generations. That is why I support, and my party supports, the Labour party in its call for an extension of the furlough scheme—but more, we would like it to cover all sectors, incentivise flexibility and be guaranteed until at least June 2021. This is a scheme that the Liberal Democrats called for and campaigned for, and, to give the Government credit, it has helped to stave off the worst economic impact of covid-19. Almost 10 million jobs were furloughed from March to June, and more than 6 million people still benefit.
The scheme has massive flaws, however. Primarily, it does not help everyone. It has excluded more than 3 million people, who have been left without any financial support at all. Perhaps the biggest long-term flaw is that the current support scheme was intended as a bridge over the deepest chasm of this crisis, and so far it offers us no destination. If the Government have a strategy for the onward journey, this would be the time to tell us. Where will those nearly 7 million people be when the bridge comes to an end? At the moment, I fear that the answer is: high and dry.