My Lords, I declare my interest as the chair of Peabody and my other interests as listed in the register.
The need to respond to the health emergency of Covid-19 has created an economic emergency. We can see the impact of the first emergency clearly, but the full impact of the second is only just beginning to be felt. Hopes of a rapid V-shaped recovery now seem very optimistic. We can expect economic activity to fall sharply, unemployment to rise sharply and particular groups and places to be disproportionately affected.
Given the high costs so far, the natural instinct of the Treasury will be to seek to rein in spending. Like the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, in his excellent speech, I strongly urge the Government to resist that temptation. In a period of huge uncertainty, private investment and consumer spending will fall and only the state can provide confidence. Huge uncovered financial losses in both the public and the private sector also need to be made good, not least the dire situation of local government. In short, a major stimulus package will be essential to get the economy going again.
As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said, I have focused much of my concern on the cultural sector, but in my remaining moments I want to focus on another issue—the contribution of the housing sector to economic recovery. A housing and employment taskforce has been created by the charity Communities that Work, of which I am a member. It has set out four asks: first, to set up a COBRA for jobs; secondly, to develop employment services; thirdly, to support innovation; and, fourthly, to support young people in order to prevent a pandemic generation. What does the Minister believe can be done in the circumstances that we now face and what is his response to that task force?