Covid-19: Recovery Strategies - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:22 pm on 11th June 2020.

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Photo of Lord Razzall Lord Razzall Liberal Democrat 2:22 pm, 11th June 2020

My Lords, the Motion calls for a fairer, cleaner and more sustainable economy: three separate goals, all of which I endorse. As for fairness, we all seem to agree that we cannot simply go back to the world we had before. With at least 10% unemployment forecast by the Bank of England and even more by the OECD, there is no doubt that young people will be the worst hit. It is generally accepted—perhaps the Minister can confirm it—that the apprentice scheme needs to be extended and become universal.

I also wonder, with the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, whether this is the time to contemplate the introduction of a universal basic income. This concept has a lengthy and not entirely utopian origin: although it started with Thomas More’s Utopia, it was taken up by Tom Paine and ended up with the approval of the monetarist Milton Friedman. Even President Trump has introduced legislation giving $1,200 per adult under certain income limits. Is it not time to look at this here?

As for a cleaner economy, we have all welcomed the clearer air as a result of lockdown. I support all the proposals of my noble friend Lady Randerson, but is this not also the time to bring forward the date for the scrapping of diesel cars from 2040 and to introduce a scrappage scheme for existing cars? In addition to the climate benefit this would provide, it would also provide a boost to the hard-hit car industry, with an encouragement for hybrid and electric cars.

Finally, as for a more sustainable economy, we must increase investment in green technology. One of the great achievements of the coalition was Vince Cable’s introduction of the Green Investment Bank in 2012: before the sale to Macquarie in 2017, £12 billion had been invested in UK projects. The Government must ensure that significant sums are now invested in green technologies, including, of course, hydrogen projects, in which Germany has recently announced a €9 billion investment. The concern, of course, is that hydrogen investment will be significantly less attractive now that we are leaving the EU’s single energy market at the end of December—yet another own goal by the Government.