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

One of the things that we are seeing in Scotland is that test and trace is working a lot better, and that is because we have not hived it off to, for example, Serco. We have been very clear that we will follow the scientific advice and we will do our very best to get that balance. That is what we have seen with the restrictions that came into place last week in Scotland. We will see how that goes. We are always keeping things under review, but the reality is that we need to follow the advice and get a balanced approach. That is exactly what we are doing, and I am sure that we will see that bearing fruit.

I turn to the issue of the excluded 3 million. The SNP has consistently and continually raised the 3 million who were excluded from the Chancellor’s initial financial support packages back in the spring. Let us be clear that the Treasury continues, I am afraid, to exclude artists, freelancers and the newly self-employed from these recent economic plans. Three million people were shut out of the vital financial support that they desperately needed during the first wave of the pandemic and they were left to face huge financial insecurity, with their livelihoods and businesses put at risk. Rather than listening to the calls of these 3 million people, the Chancellor has decided to leave behind the self-employed yet again in his economic plans, with a 70% replacement of profits being replaced in November with just 20%.

Another group that has repeatedly been excluded from the Chancellor’s financial packages has been the arts and culture sector. We saw this week the closure of all Cineworld theatres across the UK, including the one in my constituency in Parkhead. I again call on him to provide sector-specific support for the arts and culture sector, which we know will continue to suffer during the second wave of the pandemic. [Interruption.] I hear James Cartlidge chuntering away that the Chancellor has just done that, but many people in our constituencies in the arts and culture sector make it clear to us that that support does not go far enough. If the Chancellor has done that, why is Cineworld in Parkhead closing?

I have described thus far a very tough image of countless jobs being at risk. Many sectors are vulnerable and some businesses are wondering if they will make it to the new year, but the rising cases should emphasise to the House that we are still in the midst of this pandemic, which has already delivered severe blows to people’s incomes and financial security, with the most vulnerable people facing a disproportionate economic hit. That is why the SNP has repeatedly called upon the Government to make the £20 increase to universal credit permanent, especially after the latest findings from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, warning that 4 million families could see their support slashed if the Tory Government refuses to make that £20 uplift permanent.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has highlighted that nearly three quarters of a million more people, including 300,000 children, could be forced into poverty if the uplift is not made permanent. That must serve as a wake-up call for the Government. The Chancellor cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the vast inequality that exists right across the UK. With the winter months approaching, the poorest and most vulnerable people will suffer the most from the Chancellor’s economic plans, and it is quite clear that he has a choice in front of him and that he needs to do much better by them.