Covid-19 Economic Support Package

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:32 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of David Linden David Linden Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 1:32 pm, 14th October 2020

Recently the Government have quite rightly given stark and serious warnings of a second wave of coronavirus cases, with the numbers in hospitals increasing, the infection rate rising and further restrictions being put in place across the UK. While my SNP colleagues and I welcome what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said recently, it is clear that he and his Government are not acting with the urgency that the situation deserves. Quite simply, the plans that he has set in place do not go far enough.

I have had countless constituents get in touch over recent weeks who are concerned about potential job losses and financial insecurity, with many wondering how they will get through the tough winter months ahead. The SNP has consistently warned the Chancellor that his economic plans, as they stand, are inadequate. We have repeatedly called for support for the industries suffering most during the pandemic, for an extension of the furlough scheme and for the increase in universal credit to be made permanent, but those calls have, I am afraid, fallen on deaf ears. It is my hope today that the Government will listen to what needs to be done, especially considering the recent serious warnings about the devastating impact of the second wave in which we find ourselves.

The SNP welcomed the Chancellor’s announcement that further support will be given to businesses being forced to close in new local lockdowns. However, that scheme, like the other financial packages that the Chancellor has announced, does not go far enough. From 1 November, the Government will pay two thirds of each employee’s salary for businesses forced to close in new local lockdowns, but that does not apply to workers whose employers cannot afford wages due to poor trading conditions, rather than any new Government lockdowns. For them, from 1 November, the furlough will be replaced by the new job recovery scheme, whereby the Government will pick up a maximum of just 22% of pay. To be eligible for the job recovery scheme, a company must pay an employee to work at least a third of the contracted time, and the remaining wages are split into three. The UK Government and the company pay a third each and the worker loses the rest. That is, I am afraid, completely absurd. Most people simply cannot afford to lose a third of their salary. They do not get a third off their rent, a third off their fuel and a third off their shopping when they go to Tesco.

I turn to the issue of hospitality. Yesterday, James Watt, the owner of BrewDog, had a conversation with Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to discuss supporting jobs in the hospitality sector, which is a massive priority for us. He was very clear in his agreement with the First Minister that the end of the job retention scheme will lead to a “a tsunami of unemployment”. He continues to urge the Chancellor to extend the scheme, stating:

“The proposed ‘Job Support Scheme
will not protect jobs.”

This is not me, as an SNP MP, saying to the Chancellor that this is inadequate. This is somebody who is highly respected in the hospitality sector, and the Chancellor would do well to listen to him and not fiddle on his phone.