Protection of Jobs and Businesses

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:15 pm on 9th September 2020.

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Photo of Anthony Browne Anthony Browne Conservative, South Cambridgeshire 3:15 pm, 9th September 2020

I will carry on.

We are at a time when we must look to the future, not try to preserve the past. The great Andrew Bailey, the new Governor of the Bank of England, said recently in an interview that the Chancellor is

“right to say we have to look forward now. I don’t think we should be locking the economy down in a state that it pre-existed in.”

The shape of the economy will change, as we have heard today. It will not be in the same shape in a few years as it is now. The companies and people working in the aviation sector face a very difficult time over the next few years. E-commerce, on the other hand, is thriving. We have seen airlines cutting jobs, but we have seen Amazon recruiting. Inner-city sandwich shops have been hit really hard and will be for some time as people carry on working from home. Supermarkets are thriving. Pret a Manger has cut 1,600 jobs, but Tesco has just announced that it is recruiting for 14,000 jobs.

The focus of Government should not be on “prolonging the inevitable”, as the chief economist of the Bank of England said. The focus of Government should be on helping with the transition, as my hon. Friend Miriam Cates said, by helping the people who are losing their jobs into the new jobs that are being created. We must ensure that short-term unemployment does not move into long-term unemployment and that when people come out of work, they have relevant skills, motivation and contacts in industry. As soon as people become long-term unemployed—after six months or one year—they lose motivation and contacts, and the likelihood that their unemployment will carry on for much longer increases. That is why the Government are right to focus on their plan for jobs, through measures such as the kick- start scheme, support for apprenticeships, increased training and advice from Jobcentre Plus. That is the right approach.

Finally, many Members have been praising the international comparisons. We heard earlier the list of countries that have already announced the ending of their furlough schemes. I like statistics, and I have been looking at the Eurostat website, which is very good but could be a bit more user-friendly. The UK’s employment figures from Q2 to Q1—the key employment figures—dropped by 0.7%. That is after a very long period, and every job lost is bad news. However, Germany’s employment figures in Q2 to Q1 this year dropped by 1.4%, twice as much as the UK. In Ireland, the employment rate dropped by 6.1%, nine times faster than in the UK. In France—there seems to be a liking for France on the Labour Benches—there was a 2.6% drop in employment from Q2 to Q1, four times the rate here. We do not have that much to learn from the French employment market ,and I really do not think we should start doing so now.

Finally—[Interruption]—I want to say that Treasury Ministers have made the right decisions at the right time and I am confident they will in the future.