Covid-19: Economy - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:44 pm on 4th June 2020.

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Photo of Lord Darling of Roulanish Lord Darling of Roulanish Labour 1:44 pm, 4th June 2020

My Lords, I start by referring the House to my interests as recorded in the register.

It is a pleasure to speak in this debate secured by the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell. I agree with everything that he said, particularly on the need to build resilience in this country and to point out that, at a time like this, the Government can do things that individuals and companies cannot do themselves—in particular, supporting the economy to get people back to work. That is what we did 10 years ago; that is why the economy started growing again in 2010.

I understand people’s concern about debt, but we have to look at it in the same way as we did in the aftermath of the Second World War. We will have to spend a lot of money to get our economy going and to preserve the fabric of our economy. We are now, in many ways, reaching the most difficult part of the economic policies that we need to look at. As the furlough schemes run out, I fear that unemployment will start to rise. The Government must do everything they can to stimulate the economy with things like cutting VAT, perhaps a scrappage scheme for cars and so on. All these measures and more will need to be addressed, as well as continuing support for companies, through grants and possibly taking equity or loans.

Critical to all this is to get the testing regime working. At the moment, the promises are not being met by reality. In far too many cases, delivery matters and the Government need to pay attention to that.

We must address the fact that people will lose their jobs as a result of this. We cannot allow ourselves to go back to the 1980s, when millions of people went on the dole queues and, frankly, many of them never came off. That scarred the whole country. That is why the Government now need to look at the measures they will take to retrain people, get people back into work and stimulate the economy, perhaps introducing measures that will help us to adjust to a lower-carbon economy.

The Government cannot just leave these things to chance; they need to act. It is very important that we concentrate on the delivery of these policies, because that will make the difference to whether we succeed in coming out of this in better shape than will otherwise be the case.