Covid-19: Economy - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:10 pm on 4th June 2020.

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Photo of Lord Lilley Lord Lilley Conservative 3:10 pm, 4th June 2020

My Lords, it is not clear how much lockdown has helped to control the pandemic, but it is absolutely certain that it has created the worst recession in 300 years. Unlike most previous recessions, this is the result of the suppression of output and not a collapse of demand. Indeed, there is substantial pent-up demand, so the remedy is not primarily Keynesian pump-priming. It is, first, to release the lockdown as speedily as possible to enable viable businesses to recover and resume production. Most important is the reduction of the social distancing rule from two metres to one metre and scrapping the absurd plans to quarantine all tourists, without which the hospitality and travel industries cannot survive.

However, not all businesses will be viable once the lockdown ends if the pattern of demand has changed permanently, so the second priority is to encourage and facilitate the growth of new businesses and expansion of existing firms. The most effective ways to do that are tax cuts designed to bring forward activity—for example, by increasing capital allowances so that instead of taxing companies when they invest, we do not tax them until their investments generate profits. There should also be time-limited cuts, so that companies have an incentive to invest and produce sooner rather than later.

Equally important is speeding up regulatory decision-making, without lowering standards, to enable businesses to go ahead with new projects. The key lesson of the pandemic has been that state regulatory bodies, which normally take months or years to reach decisions, can, under intense public and political pressure, take decisions in days or weeks instead of months and years. Wherever possible, regulators should be given tight deadlines to reach decisions and if they do not do so in time would be deemed to have given consent. Then businesses can get out and invest to bring an end to this recession.