Lockdown: Economic Support

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:39 pm on 3rd November 2020.

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Photo of Steve Barclay Steve Barclay The Chief Secretary to the Treasury 12:39 pm, 3rd November 2020

The hon. Lady started by saying that the circuit breaker would have been shorter, but those on her Front Bench have repeatedly said, when interviewed, that a circuit breaker would have to be repeated.

The deputy chief medical officer was clear that an earlier national lockdown would not have been appropriate, because at the time, the path of the virus was very slow in certain areas, such as the south-west, so the economic damage would have been disproportionate. I might have expected to hear the hon. Lady’s argument from some Members of the House, but it is surprising that the economic spokesperson for the Opposition was willing to see that economic damage. [Interruption.] She chunters, but I am simply quoting the deputy chief medical officer, whose advice was that a lockdown would have been the wrong action to take at that time. I am pointing to economic damage, which she seems to see as trivial and something to be disregarded.

The hon. Lady then claimed that the Government had in some way dismissed certain parts of the United Kingdom. I gently point out that furlough was not ended; it continued to the end of October, and has now been extended. Furlough has continued in all parts of the United Kingdom without any gap in its provision.

The hon. Lady asks whether the Government have a plan in place. My right hon. Friend the Chancellor came to the House on 24 September to set out our winter plan for jobs. It included the kickstart scheme, which is up and running, and provides much-needed training to our constituents across the country. While setting out his winter plan, he said candidly that if the pathway of the virus changed, the Government would listen and adapt, and that is exactly the action that we have taken.

Finally, somewhat strangely, the hon. Lady said that she needs to “drag” Ministers to the Chamber to set out their approach. [Interruption.] She is repeating the point. Mr Speaker, I thought the Prime Minister was here yesterday to give a statement to the House. It is somewhat strange to say, the day after he did that, that Ministers have to be dragged to the Chamber to give updates on the position.