Covid-19 Economic Support Package

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:36 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Sam Tarry Sam Tarry Labour, Ilford South 2:36 pm, 14th October 2020

This was never going to be easy—no Government were ever going to put everything right—but as millions of people face the prospect of Christmas without a job, the facts speak for themselves. Britain’s economic downturn is now the worst in Europe, and the OBR forecasts that unemployment will reach 11.9%. As a consequence, extreme poverty is set to double. In the first half of this year alone, the UK endured the worst recession of any G7 country, with GDP falling by more than 22%. We are left mired in the worst recession in our history.

Just this week, an Institute for Public Policy Research report revealed that 2 million jobs are at risk, but the job support scheme will save only 10% of them. That is because, in its current guise, the scheme simply does not incentivise businesses to retain their staff. Other countries, such as Germany and Denmark, have offered far more comprehensive packages that save a significant number of jobs. That report was followed yesterday by the announcement that redundancies are up by a record 114,000 this quarter and that the unemployment rate is at its highest for three years, leading the Office for National Statistics to revise its own estimate of the current employment rate to 4.5%.

That is why it is incredibly worrying that the support package recently unveiled by the Chancellor fell well short of what is required. Just days before the furlough scheme ends, it is forecast that between 10% and 20% of those on furlough will likely end up unemployed when the scheme ends. That means a minimum of 4,500 people in Ilford South alone losing their jobs. All this at a time when support for the self-employed will collapse next month to just 20% of profits, down from 70% currently.

More than 33,000 voters in my constituency are on some form of job support, be it furlough or the self-employment income support scheme, as a result of the pandemic. That is more than one third of the entire constituency. What am I supposed to tell those workers who are already struggling to put food on the table for their families? How many more people have to lose their jobs before this Government get a grip on the health and jobs crisis? Is the Chancellor honestly saying that, after decades of austerity, the infrastructure is in place to retrain all those who have lost jobs? Does he even know how long it would take a waiter who lost their job in Ilford to retrain as a Python computer coder? The Government’s new skills training initiative will not even be ready until April. They have their head in the clouds.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that there is significant public backing for a new way of running our economy. A recent Survation poll found that 74% of the public are in favour of the wealthiest in our society paying more tax. I am sure Government Members will want to know that 64% of Conservative voters are in favour of that, while YouGov found that a staggering 94% of the UK public believe there needs to be a change from the status quo of the pre-pandemic economy.

The Government are simply burying their head in the sand and carrying on as though we are not still in the middle of a global pandemic. That is simply not the answer. We learned that if we had locked down the country just one week earlier during the first wave, the death toll would have been halved. The Prime Minister suggested on Monday that only very high-risk areas will get additional funding for local test and trace. I wonder whether he agrees that we need to fix test and trace across the country.

Redbridge has one of the worst infection rates in London. Time is simply running out to tackle this health and economic crisis. The UK Government have lost control of this virus and lost control of the message. They are no longer even following scientific advice. That is why Labour is calling for a circuit-breaker lockdown, coupled with the package of economic measures that we need to support and lift our people, and stop another generation going into poverty.