Economy Update

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:28 pm on 5th November 2020.

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Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Chancellor of the Exchequer 12:28 pm, 5th November 2020

I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. The claim that our action was too late is, in the words of the Government’s own medical advisers, a misapprehension, because there is no perfect moment at which to enact measures that have far-reaching and damaging consequences for the people and businesses of our country. We should only enact such measures when it becomes truly unavoidable. It is also entirely false of Labour Members to claim that things would somehow be different if only we did what they suggested, because they could not actually explain what their position was. At first, it was a circuit breaker for two weeks. Then it was an intervention that might last longer—I think yesterday we heard three weeks—and then it was something that would need to be reimposed again and again and again. That is not a plan that would support the businesses and people of this country.

The hon. Lady asked about the NHS. We have provided the NHS with tens of billions of pounds to ensure that they can do the very valuable job that they are doing, and they will have our full support over this difficult winter period. She asked about support for local authorities. We have provided just over £1 billion to give local authorities the ability to support their local businesses and economies through the winter period, on top of the direct support that those closed businesses will receive. She also asked about supporting local track and trace efforts. I agree that that is important, which is why we have provided, on a transparent funding formula, almost half a billion pounds to local authorities to ensure that they can carry out enforcement, compliance and local contact tracing at the level that they need.

The hon. Lady called for a six-month plan, yet she and her party have not put forward a six-month plan of their own, and I understand why. It is because they know—as most Members of this House, and most people and businesses in the country, know—that we are dealing with a once-in-a-century event. They know—as most Members of this House, and people and businesses up and down the country, know—that in the face of such an unprecedented crisis, the Government must be flexible to ever-changing circumstances. It is not a weakness to be agile and fast moving in the face of a crisis, but rather a strength; and that will not change.