[Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:30 pm on 10th November 2020.

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Photo of Owen Thompson Owen Thompson SNP Whip 3:30 pm, 10th November 2020

I hear the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. We had an exchange on this on Thursday. We are in a situation where the current system is not fair for millions of people who get no support whatever. We need to do whatever we can to make sure that our high streets are not utterly decimated when we get to the end of this pandemic. I suggest that is one measure that could be taken that would absolutely guarantee the future of those businesses.

I turn to consider those running small businesses from their homes—swimming instructors or travel agents whose activities are not currently available to the extent that they were before, or those who rely on large gatherings. Here, I draw attention to the Showmen’s Guild, which has effectively been closed down for a year, but because their members operate from home, they have not qualified for any support so far. Vast numbers of individuals in households and businesses have seen their income falling perhaps by 100% in some situations. They are at risk of losing their homes and cannot get the support they need. Why are the Government not wrapping their arms around them? Why is their plight still ignored? It is an unedifying consequence of this virus that the privileged members of our Government can determine which businesses are viable, what cultural events are important to save, and who gets support through a crisis or who should simply retrain in cyber.

This is an emergency, and we need to make sure that a lifeline is available to all those who need it, not just those who fit the mould of support schemes that were created hastily. I look forward to the day when SMEs can just get on with it again and think of their business, rather than what support is available, but that is a long way off. As we focus our collective efforts on following guidance to drive down the virus, the Government must make sure the measures are in place to protect jobs and businesses while we all seek to save lives.