Pandemics, like wars, change the path of history. This one has not only put into focus where austerity went too far but also changed perception of the role of the state, both here and internationally. Already, there are serious and credible suggestions for a post-war type of investment, taking advantage of low or negative interest rates to invest faster and more than was envisaged pre-pandemic. We will not be the only ones doing this, which adds a competitiveness angle.
Strategic self-sufficiency should pay a greater part, bringing environmental benefit along with security. The pandemic has also taught us that personal space matters. Inadequate and high-density housing, over- crowded public transport and excessive commuting are all promoters of illness, lost productivity and social misery as well as spreaders in pandemics; this affects, and infects, everyone in the end, and so it must change.
More economic support for business will be necessary, but it must work in a distributed and reinforcing way. Last week, the FT reported that Rolls-Royce threatened to chop any supplier that cannot give it a 15% discount. The same article points out that big manufacturers demanding cuts from suppliers are simultaneously using their need to support the supply chain as one of their pleadings to Ministers. I hope that the Minister has spotted this hypocrisy, and that BEIS will make it clear that help is for sharing and that squeezing the pips out of supply chains, unreasonable discount demands and paying late will count against them.