My Lords, I declare my interests as set out in the register.
We have already learned brutal lessons from the pandemic. I have always been a one-nation politician, with a firm belief that we can realise our full potential as a nation only if we work together. But this crisis is putting our unity under tremendous strain. Many of the firms that are closed will never open again. Tens of thousands of them are, inevitably, heavily dependent upon physical interaction—as in a pub or restaurant, club or theatre.
Our theatres do so much to define who we are as a nation and as a society, so often giving a voice to those who are otherwise underrepresented or even not heard at all. They also contribute significantly to the economy, but in the months ahead they will need our help if they are to survive at all. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, for having highlighted this key issue.
Even as we emerge from total lockdown, all employers will have to adapt, not only through social distancing but through improved ways of dealing with sickness and absence from work. This is a long-term challenge brought into sharp, short-term relief. I strongly commend to my noble friend the Minister the initiatives from GRiD, the Group Risk Development organisation, set up by the insurance sector to address these challenges.
Of course, free enterprise will have to be the principal driver of recovery, but it is none the less incumbent on all one-nation Conservatives to ensure that the public and private sectors now work together in partnership to build the necessary foundations for a stronger economy and a stronger society in the post-pandemic world.