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 Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Treasury) 12:28 pm, 5th November 2020

I am tempted to read out the comments I made on Tuesday, or indeed any of the contributions I have made in the past six months, because it feels like I have been arguing for exactly the same things from the UK Government all this time. The reality is that Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the north of England have been dingied by this Chancellor until he was forced to lock down in England. I am glad that furlough and the self-employment support scheme has been extended to March, but we should be clear that that kind of support is not unique to the UK. Countries of all sizes have been supporting their people, and many of them have done it more competently and more generously than the UK. Can he confirm that the furlough scheme is not tied to any particular tier and it will be available to all who need it at 80%? Will he refrain from cutting it back to 60%, as before, because that cost many businesses and many employees dearly? Many businesses are as good as closed, especially in hospitality, tourism, travel, events and culture, and they need ongoing support.

I return to the issue of those excluded from the support schemes. It is disgraceful and unacceptable that there is still nothing in the statement for them after eight months. Can the Chancellor tell me why he is still choosing to ignore 3 million people across these islands? Many sectors of the economy in which they work are not going back to normal any time soon. I spoke to Scottish hospitality reps this morning and they are deeply worried about the winter months ahead. They are increasingly indebted, and 70,000 to 100,000 jobs are at risk. It would help them immensely if the VAT cuts that the Chancellor previously announced could be made permanent. I welcome the additional £2 billion for Scotland, because Scotland has been able to provide hospitality businesses with rates relief, but we need clarity on the future longer-term funding to plan ahead.

A growing number of businesses cannot afford to pay for redundancies should they go bust, so what provision is the Chancellor making for supporting those who may yet lose their jobs as businesses go to the wall? Will he extend the £20 uprating of universal credit into the year ahead as well? Will he expand it to legacy benefits, because those on legacy benefits are really struggling? Will he enhance statutory sick pay? Will he listen to Maternity Action and Pregnant Then Screwed on their demands for women to be kept safe and their incomes protected?

This has been a complete bùrach, but it does not need to be. Will the Chancellor work with all parties and the devolved institutions? At the very least, could he give the Cabinet Secretary for Finance in Scotland, Kate Forbes, the courtesy of a phone call?