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 Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury) 12:39 pm, 3rd November 2020

The UK Government continue to lurch around in absolute chaos, with a Prime Minister forced, due to the leak of his plans, to come on TV and, after hours of delay, squeezing in before “Strictly” to announce an English lockdown and the extension of furlough just before it was due to expire. We have been telling them for months that it would need to be extended. While I welcome the action, this late extension will be of absolutely no comfort to those who have already lost their jobs due to the Government’s incompetence, or to the businesses in my constituency who have done their utmost to support their staff and now have no idea where they stand. It is no comfort either to those who continue to be ignored. Those excluded from the initial support schemes face a bleak winter ahead. Will the Chief Secretary ensure that they do not lose out again? There are still many sectors of the economy that cannot go back to normal.

The overwhelming sense, for many of us, is that this is not a Union of equals. When Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and parts of the north-east of England asked for furlough to be extended this autumn, they were told that the Chancellor’s magic money tree had lost all its leaves. Yet, when the Prime Minister decided that England needed to go into urgent lockdown, it turned out that the magic money tree was in fact an evergreen.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister gamed his answers on furlough in the House in a pathetic and transparent attempt to make Douglas Ross look good, but he was contradicted on Sky News this morning by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government who said it would be up to the Chancellor to decide if furlough would be available to the devolved nations after 2 December. In an act of further disrespect, the Chancellor is not even here to answer this question. Will the Chief Secretary therefore be clear and honest about whether the Treasury will make furlough and SEISS available at 80% to any part of these islands that requires that after 2 December?