It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Saqib Bhatti.
Protecting jobs and businesses has been a priority of the Government throughout the crisis. Let us not forget that more has been done to support the economy than ever before in this country, in response to the immeasurable challenge presented by the pandemic. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor’s coronavirus job retention scheme has helped protect more than 15,000 jobs in Redcar and Cleveland alone, with a further 4,600 people eligible for the self-employed income support scheme. That is almost 20,000 jobs protected, to say nothing of the thousands of businesses saved from collapse and the many thousands of families able to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads.
The job retention scheme was extended until the end of October, with the introduction of some flexibility to get employees back to work, as this is the safest choice for the nation’s health and our economy in the long term. Now, as we emerge from the pandemic, we must bring these schemes to an end, or risk delaying our economic recovery and causing even more damage to businesses and jobs. Through the furlough scheme, we have supported almost 10 million jobs, but we must accept the harsh reality that some of those jobs simply do not exist anymore. Indeed, even the Bank of England’s chief economist described extending the furlough scheme as “prolonging the inevitable”.
Covid has changed our world drastically. For many, our working style has changed, including for those of us in this House who now participate virtually and process through the Lobbies like one half of Noah’s ark. We have to face up to the consequences of telling people to work from home. When Sadiq Khan refuses to encourage people back into this great city, it means that businesses close and jobs are lost. Hospitality is still struggling, with Pret and Costa cutting jobs, yet the Mayor of London and the Leader of the Opposition refuse to encourage people to get back to work.
I am proud that the Government stepped in when people needed them most. Now, they are leading the charge to safely get the country back on track—back to trading, back to creating jobs, back to work. Millions are at risk of becoming unemployed as a result of the potential economic standstill if we continue to suffocate our economy. Rather than squashing growth and keeping jobs in suspension, we are focused on encouraging consumers to create that economic activity, with the eat out to help out scheme, the green homes grant and the stamp duty cut. Our steps do not suspend jobs; they create jobs. There is so much more potential for job creation in emerging sectors such as decarbonisation. This is our chance to build on the environmental benefits of the lockdown and promote a green economy.
Nothing protects jobs and businesses more than a Government who are right behind them every step of the way, from weathering the pandemic to helping them create the opportunities of the future. Our Conservative Government—the people’s Government—are doing just that.