Covid-19

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:46 pm on 11th November 2020.

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Photo of Sally-Ann Hart Sally-Ann Hart Conservative, Hastings and Rye 6:46 pm, 11th November 2020

I endorse the pleas of my right hon. Friend Mr Jones and my hon. Friend Joy Morrissey. It has been nearly 10 months since the word “covid-19” became part of our everyday vocabulary. Since then, we have seen the infection spread and businesses required to close, with small independent shops in particular suffering in my beautiful constituency of Hastings and Rye. We have seen unemployment rise across our one nation and, sadly, many families stricken with grief at the loss of a loved one or not being able to visit them in their hour of need.

It has been a truly traumatic and harrowing year, but there have been rays of light and hope. We have seen communities rally round to support the vulnerable and individuals such as Captain Sir Tom Moore inspire us to pull together. The Government have shown true leadership by building Nightingale hospitals in record time, expanding our testing capacity to levels considered unimaginable and providing unprecedented financial support to businesses. We now see signs of a vaccine within our grasp.

I want to focus my remarks on a generation of young people who risk missing out on getting the best possible start in their careers—those who are just leaving college, have graduated this year or have completed an apprenticeship only to find that employers are not hiring, whole sectors are at risk of collapse, their futures are in limbo and their dreams of starting careers are becoming nightmares. Last week, I was contacted by a constituent in his mid-20s. He has recently trained as a pilot, having spent years studying, and is ready to embark on a fantastic career in the aviation sector. Only 10 months ago, all seemed fine, and he and his coursemates were on track to become the next generation of commercial airline pilots. Covid-19 has put a stop to that.

That constituent is not alone. My inbox has been filled with cases of youngsters starting out on their careers who are now having to move home to their parents, reskill and look for work elsewhere. Most have not yet found work at all. The kickstart scheme for 16 to 24-year-olds is very welcome, and it will go some way to helping this generation of young people, but we must think long term and prepare for life after covid-19. I urge the Government to focus on the economic recovery for sectors across the UK that have been severely hit, such as aviation, tourism and hospitality to name but a few.

We have a generation of highly skilled young professionals—from pilots to brewers, accountants to lawyers, engineers to musicians and IT developers—all of whom are trained and ready to work, but find themselves in this period of limbo as we continue to battle the virus. We have a vaccine in sight that could begin to end this nightmare. Now must be the time to set out the long-term plan to support these industries and get them back on their feet, so that this generation of highly skilled youngsters, who are desperate and eager to get on with their lives, are not wasted and are able to find work in the sectors that they have dreamed of joining.