Covid-19 Economic Support Package

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:50 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Anneliese Dodds Anneliese Dodds Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer 12:50 pm, 14th October 2020

I have been very grateful to representatives of the ceramics sector, with whom I have had a lot of dialogue. I am very concerned about their situation. I am concerned about the lack of targeted support that has been provided to maintain our manufacturing capacity. I regret that the hon. Gentleman did not listen to what not just Labour but SAGE experts had been stating clearly: this Government will end up being potentially forced into a situation where they must apply additional restrictions. Why wait until a time when restrictions will be less effective when we will have had many weeks of reduced business confidence for the very restaurants that I, too, am deeply concerned about, which will have suffered from week upon week of reduced demand? I say: take decisive action now; that is what is needed.

In key sectors, the cost of keeping on more staff on fewer hours is higher in the UK scheme than under comparable initiatives in Germany, France and the Netherlands, even when the poorly-designed job retention bonus is factored in. Businesses want to do the right thing by their staff, but the Chancellor is pushing them to flip a coin and decide who stays and who goes. When will he fix the flaws in the job support scheme?

The Government have also left yawning gaps in their offer for the self-employed. From the start of next month, the support available will fall from 70% of pre-crisis profits to just 20%. That might be an appropriate policy if we were seeing a healthy economic recovery and rising consumer demand, but that is, very sadly, not the case. We need a targeted scheme that works for those self-employed people for whom business is still nothing like back to normal. Months on from the start of the crisis and the first package of economic support, there are still too many people who have fallen through the gaps. The Government’s message to those people is just, “You’re on your own—sink or swim.” That is not good enough. So I ask again: what will the Government do to help those who have been excluded from support so far?