Covid-19 Economic Support Package

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:56 pm on 14th October 2020.

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Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Labour, Pontypridd 2:56 pm, 14th October 2020

It is an honour to follow Owen Thompson; I share a lot of his concerns, and I think it is vital that we recognise that the numbers often quoted in this place relate to real people, with real bills to pay and real children to look after.

Given the Chancellor’s absence yesterday, he may not be aware that my local authority of Rhondda Cynon Taf has been under local coronavirus restrictions for some weeks now, so I can speak from specific experience. Hundreds of people across Pontypridd feel utterly failed by the Chancellor and this Government. As colleagues from across the House will know, this is not the first financial hardship my community has faced this year. Pontypridd, along with the communities represented by my hon. Friends the Members for Cynon Valley (Beth Winter) and for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), was hit only eight months ago with some of the worst flooding ever recorded. Storm Dennis decimated parts of our constituencies earlier this year, and the Prime Minister said that funds would be passported to help us rebuild. Where is that money? It just shows how much stock can be placed in a promise from this Government: all these months later, we and our communities are still waiting. That is absolutely disgraceful, and shows just how little care this Government have for the people of Wales.

This Government are still pursuing a one-size-fits-all approach to protecting jobs during this pandemic. For months now, the Labour party has been calling for a sector-specific support deal, and still this Government have not accepted responsibility and have not put in place a plan to support these industries. We know that the aviation sector is facing specific and substantial challenges because of the virus. In Pontypridd, major employers including GE Aviation in Nantgarw and British Airways in Llantrisant have sadly been forced to make redundancies. Across this country, 1.6 million people’s jobs and livelihoods rely on the aviation sector. We cannot just let those jobs disappear.

The coach industry, too, is facing specific challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Like aviation, this is a seasonal industry that is very reliant on tourism. Industry experts estimate that up to four in 10 companies could go bust and 27,000 jobs could be lost if no support is made available. This will hit communities hard, as many of these companies are family-owned small businesses, such as Edwards Coaches and Ferris Coach Holidays in my constituency. It really does not have to be this way: this Government have the opportunity to save jobs with sector-specific support packages, but have instead decided to proceed with an economic support package that is clearly not fit for purpose.

The high street is also feeling the strain. Just this week, the group that owns Peacocks, a significant employer in my constituency, announced that it is appointing administrators. That puts 24,000 jobs across the country at risk, and other well-known high street brands are also feeling the strain. River Island recently closed its store on Pontypridd’s high street after being doubly hit, first by flooding from Storm Dennis and then by the coronavirus pandemic, and Pontypridd’s high street is sadly not alone.

Then, there is still the problem of all the people who have been left out of Government support altogether. Earlier this week, I asked the Minister about support for people who have been excluded from the Government’s support schemes. His response was that the Government had covered the issue. Well, the 3 million people who have been excluded from UK Government support during the coronavirus pandemic do not feel like this issue has been covered at all. When will the Government take some responsibility? They cannot govern with eleventh-hour announcements and leaks to the press. People in areas under local restrictions need clarity and guidance, not slapdash announcements that have not even been thought through. I urge the Chancellor and the Minister to consider their priorities deeply going forward, because our constituents all deserve a secure economic future, and people across Wales deserve better than to be consistently forgotten and betrayed by this Government.