Covid-19 Economic Support Package

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:51 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Maria Eagle Maria Eagle Labour, Garston and Halewood 1:51 pm, 14th October 2020

I rise very much to support the motion that my hon. Friend Anneliese Dodds has moved, particularly the part that says

“this House believes the Government should do what it takes to support areas with additional local restrictions”.

My own constituency is in the Liverpool city region, which is under tier 3 restrictions. The Chancellor might not know the unemployment figures for my particular constituency, but I can tell him that probably not unlike many other places, they have doubled this year. That is about 5,000 people.

I also have 15,000 people still on furlough in my constituency. I understand that when the Chancellor introduced the national furlough scheme, he wanted it to have an end point, but surely he anticipated that it would be ending when the pandemic was waning. In Liverpool, the pandemic is surging. We have no intensive care unit beds in Liverpool’s main hospitals: they are now full, and covid is impacting on other critical care, so the health service in Liverpool is already being impacted severely. Furlough is going to end in two weeks, and those 15,000 jobs are severely at risk, right in the middle of a huge resurgence in the virus.

The Chancellor has introduced his local furlough—that is the colloquial term—for those businesses that are forced by law to close, such as pubs, gyms, and other such businesses. I think it is wrong that those people who benefit from that, especially if they are on the minimum wage, should only get 67% of it. The Prime Minister said today that the figure was 93%, but they should get 100% of the national minimum wage. There should be a floor—let us be clear about that—and I hope the Government can do something about that. One does not have to pay 67% of the bills when furloughed, and food does not cost only 67% of what it normally does, so something needs to be done to help those people.

However, the Chancellor should also be very clear that there are many other businesses in my area, such as restaurants, that have not been forced to close but whose business is severely impacted. They have to close at 10 o’clock, and they have fewer tables. In my area, there is advice against non-essential travel. It is not essential travel to go to a restaurant, so people are advised not to go there, but these businesses are not going to get any support to keep their restaurants open through the local furlough scheme, and many of them will go bust.