Covid-19: Recovery Strategies - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 1:03 pm on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Chair, Economic Affairs Committee, Chair, Finance Bill Sub-Committee, Chair, Economic Affairs Committee, Chair, Finance Bill Sub-Committee 1:03 pm, 11th June 2020

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness. As I have only two minutes, I will not develop the many points on which I agree with what she had to say. In the absence of the Government providing us with an opportunity for a two-day debate on the economy, which is what is required, I will focus on the catastrophe—for that is what it is—we face in the fourth quarter of this year as a result of the circumstances we find ourselves in. A great tsunami will sweep away the jobs of many people who thought they were in secure employment. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that we could be looking at 3 million or more people with no jobs.

The extent to which those people will be able to find new jobs will depend on the nature of the recovery. Most people have abandoned the idea that it will be V-shaped; perhaps it will be L-shaped. How quickly the economy recovers will depend on how quickly we can end this lockdown and Ministers can get their act together and decide where our priorities should be.

Earlier today I asked the Minister to indicate what assessment had been made of the number of people who would lose their jobs as a result of two-metre distancing, as opposed to the one-metre distancing recommended by the World Health Organization. He did not answer the question. The Government will have to look at how quickly we can free up the economy and save those jobs that are disappearing even now. Many of the people on furlough schemes are already out of work and will find themselves unemployed when the furlough ends. The solution for the Government is not to put up taxes or cut public expenditure but to go for growth. To quote Ronald Reagan, the deficit is

“big enough to take care of itself” in the short term.