Covid-19 Economic Support Package

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:12 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Chancellor of the Exchequer 1:12 pm, 14th October 2020

I beg to move an amendment, to leave out from “House” to end and add:

“welcomes the Government’s package of support worth over £200 billion to help protect jobs and businesses through the coronavirus pandemic, including the eight-month long Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, £1,000 Job Retention Bonus, unprecedented loan schemes, business grants and tax cuts;
further welcomes the pledge to protect, create and support jobs through measures in the £30 billion Plan for Jobs such as Eat Out to Help Out, VAT and stamp duty cuts and the £2 billion Kickstart Scheme;
acknowledges the further support for jobs with increased cash grants and the expanded Job Support Scheme to support those businesses legally required to close due to national or local lockdowns;
and further acknowledges that this is one of the most comprehensive and generous packages of support anywhere in the world.”

I very much welcome the opportunity to update Parliament and the country on the economic challenges we face and our plan to tackle them. My message to hon. Members in all parts of the House is simply this: we must not shy away from the burden of responsibility to take decisions and to lead. We must do this with honesty and co-operation. We cannot allow the virus to take hold. We must prevent the strain on our NHS from becoming unbearable, but we must also acknowledge the stark reality of the economic and social impacts of another national lockdown. The costs of doing that are not abstract—they are real: they can be counted in jobs lost, businesses closed and children’s educations harmed; they can be measured in the permanent damage done to our economy, which will undermine our long-term ability to fund our NHS and our valued public services; and they can be measured in the increase in long-term health conditions that unemployment causes.

This is not about choosing one side or the other. It is not about taking decisions because they are popular. It is not about health versus wealth, or any other simplistic lens we choose to view this moment through. The Prime Minister was absolutely right when he set out our desire for a balanced approach, taking the difficult decisions to save lives and keep the R rate down, while doing everything in our power to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people. The evidence shows that a regional tiered approach is right, because it prevents rushing to another lockdown the entire country would suffer rather than targeting that support and preventing a lockdown in parts of the country where the virus rates are low.

This is an imperfect solution. We have been consistently honest about the difficulties and hard choices that this moment presents. We have heard a lot about the SAGE advice. The SAGE minutes themselves say that Ministers must consider the

“associated costs in terms of health and wellbeing” and the economic impacts alongside any epidemiological assessment. It seems like the only people not prepared to confront that reality are in the Labour party, which is surprising given that just days ago the shadow Health Secretary said a new national lockdown would be “disastrous” for society and

“would cause unimaginable damage to our economy and…wellbeing.”