Covid-19: Economy - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:14 pm on 4th June 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Baroness Ritchie of Downpatrick Non-affiliated 2:14 pm, 4th June 2020

My Lords, this pandemic has revealed the deep levels of poverty and inequality that are entrenched in many communities. Many of these existed prior to the pandemic but are now more acute. There have been greater levels of dependence on food banks for essential food provisions. Like the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, I agree that most of this entrenchment has taken place since the period of austerity in 2010. Many people are now off work or out of work through furloughing. Some might not return to work if there are redundancies as a result of a deep depression. We need a review of economic and social welfare strategies, to reduce inequalities and ensure better levels of sustainability. There needs also to be action on climate, but I believe that this pandemic provides the Government, the Opposition and the wider community with the means to address these issues.

In Northern Ireland, tourism is one of our principal industries, and there has been an 80% drop in spend. Again, I turn to my old chestnut: will the Government consider, as part of a review of economic strategy, a drop in VAT for tourism products and the temporary abolition of air passenger duty to ensure that—subject to social distancing and all the other caveats—we get an increase in our numbers of visitors, who can then enjoy the level of tourism and the products that we have available? That would do much to enhance our local economy and ensure a reduction in inequality, and therefore sustain local employment. I ask the Minister to look at those issues.