It is a great pleasure to see Jo Stevens back in her place. There is no denying that the entertainment and culture sector has been one of the industries hit hardest by the pandemic and it has been felt by businesses and individuals alike. Some people take the view that those who work in the media, film and TV earn huge salaries and are not in need of Government support, but that is very far from the truth. There is a huge number of people both on and off the screen who, before the pandemic, were earning very modest salaries with very little job security. I know that many have sought jobs in other sectors, which is the right thing to do, but with the hospitality industry almost completely closed, along with non-essential shops, there are few opportunities available to them.
While the Government’s financial response to the pandemic has been very ambitious and far-reaching, on a global scale, there regretfully remains a very significant number of people who have been unable to make use of the support schemes. A large number of those are in the culture and entertainment sector and, in some cases, this is because they work via a limited company and cannot access self-employment grants, or, indeed, because they are employed on fixed-term pay-as-you-earn contracts. Many of my constituents who find themselves in this position have pointed out the disparity in Government support, given what someone who has been made redundant and someone who is on furlough will receive, especially when the worker who has been made redundant is not eligible for universal credit because of savings or home ownership, yet that will have no impact on his or her ability to be furloughed.
The aim of the Government has been to save as many jobs as possible with a finite supply of taxpayer funds. However, inevitably, everyone will have to play a part in paying off the debt, including those who did not receive any support. I know that the culture sector is anxious to know when it can reopen and I welcome the Prime Minister’s road map, which sets out a gradual return to normality.