The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. Like him, I have had many constituents get in touch to raise exactly that point. Clearly the Government have been found wanting on that issue.
The Bank of England estimates that ending the furlough system before businesses have recovered from the first phase will lead to a total of 4.5 million unemployed. To put that into context, that is worse than the great depression of 1930s and will have a catastrophic effect on our nation’s finances. With half a million of those job losses predicted in Conservative-held seats, I am sure that Members on both sides of the House will join me in urging the Government to extend the supportive measures that are already in place.
We have already seen that our economy was the worst hit of all the major economies in the OECD. With both the CBI and the TUC calling for the furlough scheme to be continued to avoid such mass unemployment, will the Minister and the Government now listen to the united voices of business and unions, bosses and workers and change course before it is too late? This is not an unrealistic expectation; it is a practical necessity. Other European nations have already committed to long-term furlough schemes, which will give their economies a much better chance of bouncing back from the negative spiral they are already in. For example, Germany and France have both committed to supporting their workers up until 2022, so why cut our own jobs lifeline after just eight months?
This Government’s rationale—we have heard it from some colleagues on the Conservative Benches today—is that the furlough scheme has cost too much. We have invested only—in my view—£35 billion, which is a fraction of the £500 billion that was used to bale out our banks during the global financial crisis. The social and economic costs in many now Conservative-held seats would be catastrophic and incalculable. History shows us that once good skilled jobs are lost, they do not return in this country.