Covid-19: Economy - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:29 pm on 4th June 2020.

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Photo of Lord Oates Lord Oates Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Energy and Climate Change) 1:29 pm, 4th June 2020

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, for the opportunity to debate the economic issues arising from Covid-19. I thank him for his excellent and powerful speech.

Sadly, through no fault of the noble Lord, for most of us this is a highly truncated opportunity in which we have just two minutes to attempt to discuss this enormous issue. This follows a debate on 30 April, when Peers were given one minute to debate the impact of Covid on people living in poverty. On12 May, we had just two minutes to discuss our future relationship with the European Union. Day after day, we have had similar speaking times which do not offer the slightest prospect of properly holding the Government to account. This is the dismal state at which the House of Lords has arrived. Despite repeated requests, 74 days after the lockdown began, the Government have failed to arrange a meaningful debate on the greatest crisis faced by this country since World War II. This is an astonishing state of affairs and, if we allow it to continue, the role of this House will be further diminished.

In the time that I have left, and on a more positive note, I welcome the early and decisive actions taken by the Chancellor to support the economy. Although there are some gaps in support, which my noble friends will highlight, his early action has undoubtedly made the lives of many better than they otherwise would have been. Nevertheless, the hardest part is likely to be in the next phase. It is estimated that between 1 million and 2 million people have already lost their jobs, and many more are likely to follow. In this context, will the Government urgently publish detailed plans for a job-rich economic recovery? In particular, can the Minister indicate if the Government intend to bring forward proposals for a nationwide programme to improve the energy efficiency of existing homes? This could provide tens of thousands of jobs and will be critical to meeting our net zero targets. Will the Government also look at urgent investment to accelerate research into cost-effective production of clean hydrogen, so that it can play an effective part in our decarbonisation plans?

This crisis reminds us how fragile is our control of the environment in which we live. We must use this timely reminder to inspire urgent and concrete action to tackle climate change and protect the future of generations to come.