Support for Businesses: Discussions with the Chancellor

Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – in the House of Commons on 23rd March 2021.

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Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment)

What recent discussions he has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on increasing support to businesses affected by the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Amanda Solloway Amanda Solloway Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

My right hon. Friend the Chancellor has extended our support measures in the most recent Budget to provide an additional £65 billion. With the new restart grant scheme, the Government will have allocated a total of £25 billion in business grants. Our restart grants will provide up to £6,000 for non-essential retail businesses and up to £18,000 for hospitality, personal care and gyms. This year and next year, we are spending £407 billion to support people and businesses throughout the pandemic.

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment)

We know that when big business is set to fail former Prime Minister David Cameron uses his hotline to the Chancellor. With 3 million still excluded and the £20 universal credit uplift, furlough and self-employed support ending in September, can the Minister tell us whether any former Tory leaders have contacted the Department on their behalf, or is it sink or swim for the ordinary folk?

Photo of Amanda Solloway Amanda Solloway Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

As I have indicated before, this Government have done unprecedented work and one of the things we do all the time is speak to stakeholders and all the people we need to. Think about the money we have invested: £407 billion to support people and businesses throughout the pandemic.

Photo of Darren Jones Darren Jones Chair, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Chair, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee

Many bricks-and-mortar retailers are still desperately concerned about the build-up of commercial rents during the lockdown, including many pubs that are prevented from negotiating a rent review due to restrictions in regulation 7 of the pubs code. The recent extension of the ban on commercial evictions is welcome, but when will Ministers come forward with a long-term solution to commercial rents?

Photo of Amanda Solloway Amanda Solloway Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I thank the hon. Member for the question. One of the things we are doing is working with the stakeholders. We have done a review of the pub code and we will be reporting on that situation soon, but we have extended the moratorium and we will be looking into this as well.

Photo of Stephen Flynn Stephen Flynn Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

I am afraid the previous answer simply was not good enough, because we cannot have a situation where some businesses do not have the support that they need while another set of businesses have had absolute certainty since the start of the pandemic—those, of course, being the ones with links to the Tory party; as we now know, they have had Ministers on speed-dial since day one and even a former Prime Minister tried to get in on the act. So does the Minister believe her Government have a culture of covid cronyism at their very heart, and will she now back an independent investigation into apparent lobbying by David Cameron?

Photo of Amanda Solloway Amanda Solloway Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy)

Throughout the covid-19 pandemic, the Government have supported people and businesses across the United Kingdom. The Budget extends the UK coronavirus job retention scheme and the self-employment income support scheme and extends the VAT cut to support tourism, leisure and all the sectors. People and businesses all over the United Kingdom will benefit and have benefited from the Government’s actions.