(3 months ago)Commons Chamber
[Relevant documents: e-petitions 301186, 308733, 301836, 303081, 320711, 301903, 300210, 307959, 305024, relating to support for UK industries in response to covid-19; Second Report of the Treasury Committee, Economic impact of coronavirus: Gaps in support, HC 454; Second Report of the Transport Committee, The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the aviation sector, HC 268; Oral evidence taken before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on 9 June 2020, on The impact of Covid-19 on DCMS sectors: Creative industries, HC 291.]
This is a very, very well-subscribed debate and I also want to accommodate a maiden speech. Until the maiden speech is finished there will be a time limit of six minutes, including for the maiden speech. However, I must warn colleagues that if everybody who is down to speak actually turns up—I suspect they will—it is likely that we will have to put another three-minute time limit on in order to accommodate as many people as possible. I strongly discourage interventions, because they will prevent others from speaking. That is how I intend to conduct the debate.
I beg to move,
That this House has considered e-petitions relating to support for UK industries in response to covid-19.
As we have heard already today, the volume of signatures on parliamentary petitions has been huge in recent weeks, reflecting the immense public anxiety about the health emergency we have been living through. I thank every one of the 641,986 people who signed the five petitions that reached the 100,000 threshold and that we are considering today. They are on support for the events industry; for the arts, theatre and music; for zoos, aquariums, and rescue centres; for nursery and childcare providers; and for aviation. I also thank the 74,735 people who have backed seven other petitions that are also relevant. Those petitions are on help for performers and creators; for pubs and hospitality; for early years providers; for wholesalers; for health businesses; and for small businesses.
There is no escaping the devastating impact the covid emergency has had on our economy. That is unavoidable when vast swathes of business activity are shut down. But the Government have listened and have heard the calls to intervene, from the 12 e-petitions and from millions of other people afraid for their livelihoods and their future, including many in Chipping Barnet, and I thank the Government for their intervention. At immense speed, the Government put in place the biggest package of help for jobs, livelihoods and businesses in our nation’s history.
Through the furlough scheme, the Government are paying the wages of more than 9.1 million workers, providing £20.8 billion to more than 1 million employers. More than 2.6 million people have received grants from the self-employed income support scheme, which is one of the more generous in the world. More than 863,000 companies have received bounce-back loans—these have been worth more than £26 billion.
Some £10 billion has been lent to 49,000 firms under CBILS—the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme. Small businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector have received cash grants of up to £25,000 and been given a 12 month business rates holiday. A £1.25 billion package is available for start-ups, and £30 billion of VAT payments have been suspended for three months. Some 68,000 businesses have benefited from the deferral of other taxes, and smaller businesses have received help with funding sick pay.
Without that bold and radical intervention by the Government, and the speed at which it has been delivered, our situation today in this country would be far, far worse, as the Office for Budget Responsibility, the International Monetary Fund, the OECD and the Bank of England have all confirmed. Unemployment would have rocketed and thousands of businesses would have gone bust, both in the sectors highlighted in the 12 e-petitions and in many others. There has been extensive backing for what the Government have done, including from Len McCluskey, of Unite, who said of the furlough scheme:
“We recognise that these are huge decisions for any government, and especially for a Conservative government, but they have listened to the calls for action and have acted appropriately. Rishi Sunak’s wage support measures are a historic first for this country, but are bold and very much necessary…This will definitely be some relief amid all the fear in households across the UK this evening.”
However, were it not for the difficult decisions taken by Conservative-led Governments since 2010, we would not have been able to respond in this way or on this scale. It is only if you fix the roof while the sun is shining that you have the resources and the balance sheet to intervene aggressively to provide the kind of action called for in these petitions. Sadly, we all know from our inboxes that, even with the scale of what we are doing, there are gaps in support. In an economic disaster as great as this one—possibly the worst for 300 years—there are inevitably still many people facing hardship and uncertainty about their future. I hope that the Minister will consider whether any further help is possible for the sectors highlighted in the 12 e-petitions.
The right hon. Lady is making a fine speech. I welcome the support that the Government have put in. Does she agree that people in the concert and festival industry, in particular, are facing a double whammy? Not only will they be among the last industries to get back to anything like normal, but many of them are self-employed and, for various reasons, fall through the gaps in the self-employed scheme. Does she agree that we need sector-specific support for the concert and festival industry?
I do agree with the hon. Gentleman on that. They are more heavily impacted and I hope it will be possible to have a sector-specific scheme for them.
I was about to turn to exactly that point—the arts, events, theatre, performance, musicians, actors and creators. With no date set for the resumption of events and performances in theatres or music venues, this crucial part of our economy could be the hardest hit of all of them. The future of our regional theatres in particular looks perilous. Adrian Vinken, chief executive of the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, wrote in the Daily Mail today:
“The entire performing arts industry is…facing oblivion. This is not only a human and economic disaster—it is a cultural catastrophe.”
As we heard from the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Jeff Smith) , the insecure and sporadic nature of jobs in the industry means that many workers fall within the gaps in the Government’s covid intervention package. This includes, typically, freelancers who get part of their income through PAYE and part of their income through self-employment. They may not have been in their PAYE contract at the right time to be furloughed, and they may not earn enough of their income from self-employment to qualify for the self-employment income support scheme. As well as considering further funding support for those workers and sectors, we must have a clear plan to get theatres and venues open and to get events starting again, as has been managed in countries such as South Korea.
It is also really important to reflect on aviation, which, as the petitions highlight, is also hard hit. We need the air bridges in action. Blanket quarantine requirements will make it a hundred times more difficult for aviation to recover, and it is hard to understand the need for quarantine for people coming from places that have fewer covid cases than we do. I appeal to the Minister for a risk-based approach on quarantine so that travel can start up again and we listen to the petitioners who are demanding help and support for aviation.
Our nurseries and childcare are also mentioned in the petition. I welcome the extension of the business rates holiday, directly implementing one of the demands of petitioners, but Ministers need a firm and funded plan to support the sector in the long term. The early years stage of education is crucial in determining life chances, and if we are to deliver on our promises on social mobility and respond to legitimate concerns on equality of opportunity, we need to help nursery and childcare providers through this crisis and ensure that they are on a stable footing for the long term, including restoring funding for maintained nursery schools.
Does the right hon. Lady agree with me and the Treasury Committee that the Government, unfortunately, have left out more than 1 million people through the job retention scheme who are struggling? Many of them are freelancers working in the theatre sector and others—there are new starters who are suffering. We need to make sure that they get support they need, alongside the many things that she is talking about.
I certainly acknowledge that the Treasury Committee identified gaps in provision. Unfortunately, a number of my constituents fall into those gaps, so I hope that there may be further help, but more importantly, we have to get the economy opened up again so that people can start earning a living in a normal way.
On zoos and aquariums, I welcome the grants of up to £100,000 offered by the Government to get them through the crisis, again responding directly to the e-petition. I pay tribute to the dedicated work of zoo staff, many of whom went the extra mile to look after the animals in their care, despite lockdown.
Whether it is zoos or nurseries, theatres or airports, hospitality or wholesale, the best shot in the arm the Government can give all these sectors is to let them open for business again. It was, therefore, an immense relief to hear from the Prime Minister that the 1 metre rule, with safeguards, will be introduced in England from 4 July. I have been advocating this for weeks as the only way to save our pubs and hospitality, travel and tourism businesses—and the only way to save the summer holidays.
The multiple schemes I have set out have provided vital life support for the economy and are protecting the livelihoods of millions upon millions of the constituents who vote for us to serve them in this place. They have protected people who would otherwise be facing great hardship and adversity, but their eye-watering cost means it is inevitable that they are time-limited. The only way to put the sectors highlighted in the 12 petitions on to a sound and successful footing for the long term is to let people out of their homes, back to work, back to the shops, and back to the pub. That is starting to happen and I very much welcome the news that 4 July will truly be our independence day as we take the next cautious steps in lifting lockdown and moving on from the covid emergency.
It is a pleasure to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) and I absolutely agree with her sentiments about opening up the economy.
May I say right at the outset that I think what the Government have done in terms of this unprecedented economic support—the support for businesses and for workers against the economic consequences of the pandemic —has been truly extraordinary, and the speed at which those programmes were put in place was particularly impressive?
In my constituency alone, 10,000 jobs were furloughed under the job retention scheme—10,000 incomes. With that support through the crisis, people have a chance of a job in the future as the restrictions ease. I am very pleased that the scheme has been extended and that there is the ability to part-time furlough. That flexibility has to be right; the businesses want that as they gradually reopen.
However, I would point out to my hon. Friend the Minister that there are a number of issues with the scheme, which, with a little bit of tinkering, could easily be put right. He will be aware that one particular problem is that eligibility is based on a real time information submission to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. The problem for a lot of small businesses is that they had agreed with HMRC that they would make an annual return and, therefore, not being required to make the RTI return, they are ineligible for support. A brief word with the chief executive of HMRC would sort that problem out.
The self-employment income support scheme is very welcome. It is estimated to help 4,000 people in Wimbledon, but I have been contacted by a number of people who, because they became self-employed last year, do not qualify. They feel they have fallen through the cracks. Will the Treasury look at that? A number of the people affected are starting businesses for the first time and are likely to be the lifeblood of the economy as we recover; a little help now would work. Of course, the same applies to directors of small limited companies. If they were put on the same footing as the self-employment income support scheme, that would mean a grant, which, in some cases, would save their businesses. With that minor tinkering, the scheme could be even better than it already is.
The hospitality, retail and leisure industry is obviously at the forefront of the economic costs, having been unable to open until 4 July—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet said, we look forward to that date. The support for the sector has been outstanding, but the Minister will know that in some parts of the country the £51,000 rateable value limit is relatively small compared with the sums the businesses are transacting. On future economic packages, I say to the Minister that it would be really helpful if the Government would recognise that there are some quite major regional imbalances in rateable values when businesses are broadly of the same turnover and this would be a huge benefit.
While there has been extraordinary help to the retail, hospitality and leisure chain, inevitably a lot of the suppliers to those industries have not been able to get any help at all. What has been seen to be a postcode lottery has been developing on the basis that the Government have given advice on what qualifies as a retail, leisure or hospitality business. It is pretty specific, although the Government do say that the list is not exhaustive. The trouble is that different councils are choosing to interpret it in wildly different ways and it is having a major impact on suppliers to these industries.
I pick up the events industry in my constituency, with White Light and Oxygen Event Services being two companies that may not be able to reappear in the way they were before this pandemic hit the country, and that would have a huge impact on the concert, festivals and hospitality industry. May we have a bit of Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government guidance to councils, that industry and also language schools, which are huge providers to local economies, particularly in Wimbledon? I have seven language schools that provide consumer expenditure into the local economy from the students, jobs for teachers and support for local families who house these students. Again, a postcode lottery has developed: in some places these businesses and schools are getting help and in others they are not. Again, if the MHCLG could be more prescriptive about exactly what should be allowed to be available for business rate relief, that will help.
There are a number of other industries I could comment on, but finally, can I just say that, as a London MP, I am proud of the culture and the arts in this city? I want to see that arts and culture not just in the west end, but across constituencies. I have the New Wimbledon theatre and the Polka theatre. On what such venues need to survive, can I ask the Government to really look very hard at this? A number of people working in these industries have had no income or access to help since the pandemic struck. I know there are various packages that the Arts Council funds, but we need a specific performing arts financial package, so that all theatres and concert venues can survive and the people who work in that industry will be there to make sure that, when they reopen, arts are being performed in them. That would mean that the culture in this country would survive, which is so vital to our future, alongside the economy and our health.
I will follow your guidance, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I will not take interventions.
Coronavirus has hit all sectors of the UK economy, some harder than others, and aerospace and air travel will be one of the hardest hit. I have been here long enough to remember the effects on the industry of 9/11 and the banking crisis. These were severe, but nothing compared with the challenge that we face today. For Airbus in Broughton in my seat, this has meant a reduction in production rates of about a third. Some 40% of the UK workforce in the commercial aircraft division is currently on furlough. About 500 employees at Broughton have been working on the ventilator programme. I am sure everyone here and everyone in the country will be extremely grateful and proud that that has happened. It demonstrates what a dedicated workforce we have, but their reward for this work, as the programme comes to an end, is that many of them will not qualify for furlough. I think that that is an absolute disgrace. I would ask the Minister to really look at this situation. It cannot be right that the people who have done this work do not qualify. They are a special case and they should be treated as such. Airbus has stepped in and will cover the furlough, but that is hardly the point. I ask the Minister to press his Treasury colleagues on this matter urgently.
Industry experts do not expect passenger demand to return to pre-crisis levels before 2023. That will in turn mean that actual production rates will not catch up until 2025. With 70% of the value of an aircraft in the supplier chain, the effects there could be devastating, leading to a near total collapse of the sector if intervention does not occur. If we are serious about maintaining a viable aerospace sector in the UK, we need to be serious and have a strategic plan that embraces not only companies such as Airbus and the airlines, but the supplier chain. All parts need to work together to that end. I am concerned that some airlines—well, one in particular—see this crisis as an opportunity to remove rivals and ride roughshod over the terms and conditions of their workforce. That type of attitude and approach needs to change. We need a united front to face this crisis.
In the US, Germany and France, we have had announcements of targeted programmes of support. The latest announcement from the French Government included a raft of measures. Its aim is to protect some 100,000 jobs. It includes a reduced working week or working hours, with the difference picked up by the state. That will last up to two years. There will be a one-year moratorium on aircraft loans under the export credit agencies, amounting to around €1.5 billion. In addition, Airbus will have 18 months to pay loans, rather than the six months currently. That is worth around €2 billion. Defence procurement projects are also to be brought forward with new investment to help the sector, and the defence sector SME fund will be increased by 50% to €100 million a year. Air France-KLM has already been given a €7 billion loan guarantee to secure its future.
In addition, the French Government have promised more investment, with €1.5 billion to decarbonise and produce carbon neutral aircraft by 2035, rather than the current target of 2050. Those are bold plans that look at the medium and long terms. They recognise that there will be no quick fix, and we in the UK need to rise to that challenge, otherwise we will be left behind and could lose one of our greatest and most important industries.
What can we do to help to secure the future? We clearly need a job retention support scheme, not just for now and a few more months, but for the long term. We need to retain skills and we need the flexibility that reduced working hours can offer. We need to build support for Airbus by speaking to the airlines and retiring older, less efficient aircraft from their fleets. Around 70 aircraft flown by UK-registered airlines are more than 15 years old.
We need to address the complete mess, as has been mentioned, of quarantine, which has already added to the crisis. We need to invest in research and development, make advances in R&D tax credits and confirm that funding of the Aerospace Technology Institute will be doubled to £300 million a year. We need something for the supply chain, because that is in many ways the most vulnerable part of the sector. We need a long-term policy to ensure that there is an investment fund to keep suppliers alive during this crisis. We need to bring forward defence projects, but they need to be in this country, not just bought off the shelf from America.
If we do not step up to the plate, the future will not be good. For Broughton, it is always about securing the next wing. If we do not secure the next wing and Germany, France or Spain get it, the future will be bleak. I ask the Government to act and act now before it is too late.
It is a pleasure to call Darren Henry to make his maiden speech.
Thank you for the opportunity to make this, my maiden speech, Madam Deputy Speaker.
It is a great honour and a great responsibility, joyfully accepted, to represent the people of Broxtowe with all the energy, determination and commitment of which I am capable. I say to all my constituents: “I will be your man. I will stand up for you. I will not turn from the challenges you face, but make them my own. While I have the privilege to serve you, you will not be forgotten in this place.”
I would like to pay tribute to my predecessor as the Member for Broxtowe, Anna Soubry. I may not have agreed with all that she said in this place, but I wish to set on record my acknowledgement of the good work she did for Broxtowe and for her constituents. I wish to thank her for her efforts on improving access at Beeston railway station. I admire her strong will and her determination to do what she felt was best for Broxtowe and for this country, and I wish her the best of British.
This week is the 72nd anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush. The people of the Windrush generation came to Britain to help rebuild our great country, and my parents were among them. Dad, Harry, is from Jamaica, and Mum, Gloria, from Trinidad. Like many of that too long ignored generation, they worked hard to make a good life here. Dad worked double shifts, and Mum worked all day in a factory. They saved; they bought a house. They were ambitious, and they prospered. We were a traditional British working-class family: hard working, loyal, fiercely patriotic—and Conservative.
Opposition Members claim Windrush as their own, as if it is obvious that immigrants are somehow obliged morally and practically to be Labour supporters. Well, my family were not, and I am not. I stand here as evidence of what immigrants and their children can achieve in what my parents called the land of opportunity. I am proud to be the first Conservative MP of West Indian heritage—black, British with all my heart, immensely proud of my West Indian heritage and Conservative to my fingertips.
Before coming to this place, I spent 26 years in the Royal Air Force. Like others here, I knew that service to my country was the right and dutiful career for me. On my first day in the RAF, I had a splendid Afro hairstyle, and now, because of weeks of lockdown, I am delighted —my Afro is coming back!
The armed forces are known for getting things done, and that is what I will do for the people of Broxtowe. At Chilwell station, also known as Chetwynd barracks, we have seen service personnel assisting efforts to tackle the covid-19 pandemic as part of Op Rescript. As it is Armed Forces Week and Veterans Day today, I hope that this message is heard loud and clear by my fellow veterans: “If you are driven by public service, as I am, stand up and serve your community again.”
During my election campaign, I pledged to support investment in our local hospitals as part of my six-point plan for Broxtowe. This is a cause that is close to my heart. My wife Caroline spent 25 weeks out of her 34-week pregnancy in hospital. It is to Caroline and the NHS staff at Nottingham City Hospital that I say thank you for the blessing that is my twin children. That is why I am delighted that, after months of lobbying, the Government have provided seed money for the local Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust to develop and rebuild modular buildings and key sites, including a new women’s and children’s unit, which will benefit families in Broxtowe.
Parents do their best for their children. As the father of two children with autism, I recognise that those in Broxtowe who are on the autistic spectrum or suffer with mental health conditions have found it particularly difficult being cooped up during lockdown. In normal times, getting mental health support is a struggle. I am convinced that it does not have to be this way. The Government’s planned reform of the Mental Health Act 1983 must ensure that people subject to the Act receive better care and have a much greater say in that care. I will continue to fight to secure the needs of vulnerable people in Broxtowe. They will not be forgotten.
In today’s debate, we are considering support for UK industries in response to covid-19. In my own constituency of Broxtowe, enterprises as varied as the Boots headquarters, which opened the first non-NHS swab testing site in the country, and independent, family-run firms such as Fred Hallam grocers, who delivered extensively to help people during covid-19, have diversified to ensure that the needs of our community are met. With the HS2 east midlands hub set to be in Toton, and Stapleford soon to be revitalised by the town deal funding, Broxtowe will have a thriving future.
I will work to make that vision a reality for the people of Broxtowe—my constituency; my people. To paraphrase D. H. Lawrence, a local lad made good, I will be still when I have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves me, I will say, and say it hot.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Darren Henry) on an excellent maiden speech and on his very powerful story. I add to his tribute to his predecessor, who brought great passion to our debate in this House. I am sure that he will bring many insights from Broxtowe too.
Many businesses across the country are breathing a sigh of relief that they can start trading again. The level of Government support for businesses has been unprecedented, and that is undoubtedly to be welcomed; it has provided a lifeline to swathes of our economy at this incredibly challenging time. However, although the support is extensive, we cannot ignore those who have slipped through the gaps. We also cannot pretend that this is not going to be difficult for months for industries where normality is still a long way off.
Aviation is a key area in which recovery will be slow. Flights may be restarting and discussions on air bridges under way, but the sector does not expect demand to return to pre-crisis levels until at least 2023. The crisis will have a sustained effect on our aviation industry.
Newcastle airport in my constituency is an international and domestic transport hub, a strategic asset for the north-east, and central to our economic growth. It is a large regional employer but also supports many regional jobs, on site, off site and in the supply chain. Our airport supports manufacturing business, exports, and higher education through our world-class universities. It also supports the tourism sector, which was thriving before this crisis.
I have raised support for aviation in the Chamber a number of times, but there is still a concerning lack of appreciation for the special circumstances faced by the industry. There also seems to be a lack of understanding of how this crisis will impact the sector’s transition to being greener and cleaner, and of the longer-term impact on regional economies such as mine. As co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on sustainable aviation, I believe passionately in the importance of a strong and stable aviation sector.
Newcastle airport has ambitious plans to become a net zero emissions airport by 2035. However, demand for new aircraft will take years to recover from its expected drop, which could mean manufacturing job losses and a decline in this strategic industry at a time when we need more investment in cleaner and greener aviation technology, not less.
The industry is asking for greater understanding and support in the difficult months ahead. It needs air bridges to be arranged as soon as possible. Twelve months of business rates relief, as has been provided to airports in Scotland and Northern Ireland, would level the playing field and support businesses through this period. A temporary suspension of air passenger duty is requested while aviation demand recovers, particularly when it comes to regional air connectivity. We urgently need action so that the industry can prepare and protect jobs.
I turn to the many smaller businesses in my constituency that face so much uncertainty about their future. We have a world-leading performing arts sector, which has been brought to its knees by this crisis. We could see devastation of the cultural and entertainment scene in so many communities. One of my constituents who works in the industry said:
“Over the recent period of lockdown I have watched as theatre after theatre has closed down, unable to remain afloat due to the incredible lack of funding already present within the industry and have watched so many of my friends and colleagues being made redundant.”
So many venues do not know when they will be able to reopen and are fighting for survival. I was contacted by a dance school that just wants to know when it might be able to reopen. We have seen what has happened to tourism businesses, self-employed people—I could go on; there are so many.
As Britain cautiously emerges from lockdown and some level of normal returns, we cannot allow those who have lost out most from this crisis to continue to be forgotten. We must do everything we can to make sure that as many as possible get through this crisis and continue to provide their services in the future.
Order. I am afraid that we will have to move to a three- minute limit if we are to have any chance of getting as many people in as possible.
The circumstances in which we find ourselves are unprecedented, and unprecedented times call for unprecedented action. What may have seemed unthinkable to this Government a few short months ago is now not only thinkable but absolutely essential to support UK industries.
The Government’s actions to save jobs through the job retention scheme by allowing workers to be furloughed was universally welcomed, although there were too many gaps in it, which was deeply unfair to workers who fell through those cracks. But the current plan to reduce support for furloughed workers and self-employed people is sending unemployment soaring. The plans to cut back on furlough support has seen tens of thousands of jobs lost before our eyes: 9,000 jobs at Rolls-Royce; 10,000 jobs at BP; 5,000 jobs at Centrica; 10,000 jobs at British Airways; more than 3,000 jobs at Virgin Atlantic; 2,600 jobs at OVO Energy; 2,500 jobs at Travis Perkins—I literally do not have time to go through the thousands of jobs that are being lost.
The whole point of the job retention scheme was to save jobs—an aim that we can all support—but if the furlough support is withdrawn too early, it will have failed in that goal. In addition, Government loans need to be converted into grants to save our businesses. I first petitioned the Chancellor on this issue on 15 April in a letter to which I still await a response. The guiding principle here must be to save businesses, jobs and our economy. We are very far from “job done”.
The Bank of England has said that the UK Government should treat the debt that has been incurred as war debt. That is absolutely correct. It should not lead to greater austerity, because that will only compound the challenges that we currently face. A war has indeed been fought—a war on our health and our economy—and the Government must continue to throw every mechanism and tool at their disposal at securing victory as we face the worst economic depression in more than 300 years.
UK Government borrowing will reach £340 billion and quantitative easing will reach £645 billion this year, so why has Scotland been allocated a relatively meagre £10 billion? While the UK Government borrow and Scotland is sold short, the powers, levers and financial flexibility that Scotland has are insufficient to manage Scotland’s response to the host of challenges that we face. With the requisite powers in Scotland, we could do it better for ourselves, as we always do. The current powers do not allow us to do that. We need to be armed to face the economic tsunami that is heading our way at great speed. If this Government will not do more, we in Scotland need more power to do it for ourselves.
My constituency of Ynys Môn is an island of vast economic potential; however, over the past two decades the people of Ynys Môn have endured an economic decline that should never have been allowed to happen. Many large employers have closed and thousands of well-paid jobs are being lost. This has been hugely detrimental to the island’s precious Welsh culture and the sustainability of the language, as so many have had to travel away to be successful in their careers.
As I am sure Members from all parties who represent coastal constituencies can attest, the tourism and hospitality sector is often most crucial in economically disadvantaged areas. That is certainly the case on Ynys Môn, where the sector supports roughly 4,000 jobs and contributes more than £300 million to the local economy. The lockdown was, of course, the right thing to do: it helped to prevent our precious NHS from being overrun and it helped to save lives. I know that I speak for many businesses and self-employed people from across Ynys Môn—including many of those operating in the tourism sector and the supply chain that supports it—in saying that although the lockdown has been unimaginably difficult to endure, the packages of financial support provided by the Government have been both invaluable and hugely appreciated. That financial support will give the sector a fighting chance to recover and to thrive once again.
In April, it was announced that the parent company of two of the island’s favourite pubs—the Oyster Catcher in Rhosneigr and the White Eagle in Rhoscolyn—had entered into administration. It was feared and likely that at a time when our island cannot afford to lose a single job, more than 100 jobs across both sites would be lost. However, due to the coronavirus job retention scheme, both pubs were identified as being viable and have now been rescued. I thank the Timpson Group for once again displaying confidence in the amazing workforce of Ynys Môn. I wish both pubs and their employees a long and successful future.
Ynys Môn is the most dependent local authority in the UK on tourism, and this crisis has highlighted more than ever that this needs to change and we must diversify. Our coastal waters have some of the strongest tides in the British Isles, and companies such as Minesto are looking to use tidal power. We have a nuclear power station, Wylfa Newydd, which will create thousands of jobs and help to reduce our carbon emissions. Ynys Môn has the opportunity to play a leading role in developing these technologies, with unparalleled economic opportunities for the people of the island.
Support for our industries as we emerge from the first phase of the covid-19 crisis is absolutely essential in order that our economy can recover as quickly as possible. However, this needs to be done responsibly and cannot be prioritised ahead of people’s health.
The north-west region, which I represent, continues to have the highest R rate in the country, currently standing at between 0.7 and 1, as revealed today in a leaked report by Public Health England. That is why last week Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham launched the “Safely Reopening Greater Manchester” campaign, an initiative to ensure that the region’s economy can reopen safely from the covid-19 lockdown. That includes supporting employers and employees to take precautions such as working from home where possible and utilising alternative methods of travel to work, such as walking or cycling, instead of risking infection on public transport.
Small businesses, which underpin our economy, have undoubtedly been hit the hardest in this crisis. In my constituency, Stockport’s market hall traders have raised particular concerns that they have faced as a result of the lockdown, which has created immediate hardship for them. They have further fears such as shoppers staying away when the lockdown is eased, coupled with social distancing measures that will result in less footfall. The market hall and our independent traders are an asset to Stockport and a key part of its unique character, but without support they will be unable to survive in the current economic climate. Rent holidays would put the traders in a much stronger position to bounce back when the current restrictions are lifted.
Robinsons brewery in my constituency is a further example of a successful local business that must be supported throughout this crisis. Robinsons is a family-run, award-winning brewery founded in 1849, and a member of the Society of Independent Brewers. Sales by independent breweries dropped by 82% when pubs closed in March, yet they have not received the same financial support as pubs, such as the business rate holiday or the £25,000 grant. That situation is made worse by the fact that almost half of independent brewers require two to four weeks to brew beer and prepare, meaning that there will be a further lag once the lockdown is over. I urge the Government to consider measures such as direct support that is already provided to pubs and the hospitality sector, which should be extended so that small breweries receive business rate relief and grants. This will help to protect and secure jobs in independent companies such as Robinsons.
I will, briefly, with the permission of the Chair. [Interruption.] Oh, we are running out of time—I apologise.
Greater Manchester Combined Authority, led by Mayor Burnham, is already looking at initiatives such as a regional brokering scheme to match people who are at risk of being made redundant when the furlough scheme ends with parts of the economy where there are opportunities, as well as exploring initiatives such as a future jobs fund. I urge the Minister to take action.
Having spoken to businesses across my constituency, where some 11,900 people have been furloughed and 4,300 people have been in receipt of the self-employed income support scheme, it is clear to me that many jobs have been saved —livelihoods, as well as businesses that have been built up with dedication and passion over years and decades. That is all due to the unprecedented support made available by this Government.
However, as the numbers of signatures on the petitions we are debating today show, some sectors do remain in need of particular support. In the time available, I cannot cover all of them, but as someone who has previously been a trustee of a theatre and an arts centre, I know how difficult the current situation is for everyone in the arts, and I very much hope we can find a way to assure the future of British theatre and music.
It would be remiss of me, as a member of the Transport Committee, not to mention aviation. It is imperative for the very survival of our airlines, airports and the businesses that support them, and the thousands of jobs that depend on them, that we are able to get aviation up and running again soon. I will not repeat the findings of the Committee’s recent report, but I will briefly mention freight. With 40% of air freight going in the belly hold of passenger aircraft, if the passenger planes are not flying, the freight is not flying either. As the UK recovery depends, to a large part, on new free trade deals around the globe, we need aviation. I encourage the Government to focus on freight, as well, as part of the recovery plan.
From the perspective of the events sector, I wish to focus particularly on the coach industry.
I have spoken to coach operators in my constituency, such as Masons in Cheddington. The sector at large employs 42,000 people and contributes nearly £7 million to the leisure sector. The drop in income that the coach sector has seen during lockdown, with six-figure losses, is unprecedented. The reduction in social distancing is very positive, but coach companies tell me that with 1 metre-plus, they can only get 25 people on a 53-seater coach and that is not viable. To put it bluntly, with that capacity they will barely cover the fuel to keep the wheels rolling.
Loans have been good news, but with many operators having spent considerable money through debt on ensuring their fleet complies with the regulations on public service vehicle accessibility earlier this year, they are left financially exposed to taking on further debt. If we want to get people back to the tourism locations and museums and to help people who have been isolated for so long get about again, my plea to the Government is that we need support for the coach sector, to help it bounce back.
Forty years ago, manufacturing accounted for 30% of GDP in this country. It now stands at barely 9%. If there is to be any serious agenda for levelling up in this country, we need a modern manufacturing renaissance to close the gap between the regions, to rebalance between services and manufacturing, and to be a country that is actually exporting again, which has a massive impact on our balance of trade. We need steel to be at the heart of that modern manufacturing renaissance.
Steel is the backbone of manufacturing. It is in the cars that we drive, the offices we work in, even in the cutlery we use to eat our meals. It is at the heart of our aerospace and automotive sectors. It is absolutely vital as a foundation industry.
The Port Talbot steelworkers in my constituency make the best steel that money can buy. It is green steel. Imagine relying on steel from China, which has some of the dirtiest steel production processes in the world. Allowing our steel sector to collapse would be the definition of a false economy, in terms of the need for a proper industrial strategy and the reduction of our dependence on China.
Steel is the beating heart of the economy and community, with 4,000 well-paid steelworkers in my Aberavon constituency. Some say that steel is a sunset industry. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is vital in photovoltaic cell production, and the vast majority of the alloys that are used in steel these days did not even exist 10 years ago. It is at the cutting edge of innovation.
Tata Steel is in the midst of a cash-flow crisis because of the impact of covid-19, which has caused demand for steel to fall off a cliff. It needs Government-backed loan support. I do not care whether that is a loan or Project Birch; it does not matter. We need support from Government so that the steel industry can weather the storm and help us to build back better.
There can be no post-pandemic economic recovery without a strong and healthy steel industry. Imagine the cost of doing nothing—4,000 well-paid workers going on to benefits. The capital expenditure costs of decommissioning the Port Talbot steelworks would be astronomical. The loan would be far better value for the taxpayer than the cost of doing nothing.
I urge the Government to step up to the plate. I urge the Government to take the long view and put in place an industrial strategy that includes energy prices, business rates and a proper trade defence mechanism, so we stop the dumping of Chinese steel. All that needs to happen and it needs to happen now—but first, we need that loan from the Government, and we need it today.
I make specific reference to my register of interests; I am associated with a business that has received a CBIL.
Faced with a profound crisis, the Government responded magnificently with a suite of measures of emergency loan schemes to support businesses badly affected by covid-19, in particular CBIL and the bounce back loan scheme. Put together at great speed, the schemes shovelled money from lending banks into viable businesses to support their cash flow in the short term, with capital sums repayable over five or six years—a vital support to large sectors of our economy and one that we will look back on with awe.
As we come out the other side of the initial crisis, the requirement to repay those debts in just five to six years will, in its turn, damage our ability to grow the economy. Just when we need businesses to be investing in growth and creating employment, they will have to focus on repaying their covid debt, in addition to any other pre-crisis leverage repayment plans. Just when we want banks to lend money to support employment-enhancing growth, they will have swollen covid-19 balance sheets and so be less likely to lend more. That is the opposite of what we need to happen.
There is a simple-ish solution: if we take the covid loan books of the banks and place the loans in a special purpose vehicle, turning them into covid loan-backed securities with varying maturities of up to 30 years, we could transform our economic recovery at a stroke and reduce capital repayments by a factor of six. We would free up whole swathes of the economy from zombie status, releasing funds for investment in growth. It would reduce business failures and increase the market for investment debt as effective business debt ratios are reduced.
At the same time, it would increase the banks’ lending appetite, since their current covid loan books would have been sold to institutional investors, so reflating their balance sheets. It would create the long-term, very low-risk, fixed income investment sought after by pension funds, particularly if the coupon were tax-free. The risk, after all, would be made up of businesses that were confident that they could repay sums over five or six years now doing so over 30 years, with individual risk further softened by their amalgamation.
Finally, it would create a whole new sector in finance in which the City could excel. I cannot think of a single policy that could do so much to re-establish our growth businesses so quickly, and all without significant recourse to the taxpayer. Does that sound too good to be true? Well, like any complex financial product, there are risks that will need to be explored both by the Treasury and by the Bank of England, but my earnest hope is that this proposal will be given the serious and immediate consideration it deserves.
I am going to make two points. The first is one that other Members have touched on. There are 3 million small limited companies, from taxi drivers to people in the creative industries, who still are being excluded from Government rescue measures. Many of those are not eligible for universal credit, so I add my plea to that of others: please, please, can the Government try to help those people?
The second point I want to make is about tourism. It occurs to me that I shall be repeating myself, inasmuch as I talked about this very subject some two or three weeks ago, although, now I think about it, I was up on the screens all around the Chamber—not a very pleasant sight, I fancy, so perhaps I should take the opportunity to apologise for any trauma I caused to right hon. and hon. Members.
It has been an incredibly long winter in the highlands of Scotland, and it is not over yet. We hope that the tourism businesses will go back in business on 15 July, but they are by their very nature seasonal. They make their money during the tourism season to survive the winter. That is the fat that they live on to see them through to the next tourism season, and I fear very much that many of the tourism businesses in my constituency, even starting on 15 July, will not put enough cash in the bank to see them through.
Of course, if they go down and they fail, the following year we have a reduced tourism product to offer people to bring them back to the highlands of Scotland. The same is true of Anglesey; it is true all over the UK. Our tourism product must be safeguarded and garnered and encouraged.
I know from what I have said in the past that I have the support of right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of this House on this issue, and I am grateful for that. My hon. Friend and colleague the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) has indeed been talking about this matter, and I support him. I also know that within the Scottish Government Fergus Ewing, the Minister responsible, is big on this as well.
I guess my plea is this: I believe, as does my hon. Friend, that we will have to have some specially tailored package, based on the measures that the Government have rightly put in place at the moment, to try to help the tourism industry through the longer period. I do not know what the answer is, but there are very many clever people who work in Her Majesty’s Treasury, and perhaps something could be thought up about that.
I hope there will be discussions between the Scottish Government and Fergus Ewing, and Her Majesty’s Treasury and appropriate Ministers. I would be deeply grateful if this issue could be taken seriously, because if tourism goes down the tubes in my constituency, frankly, the economy will be damaged irreparably. That means people will lose their livelihoods and the curse of the highland clearances could come back to haunt us yet again.
I declare an interest as my company has used the furlough scheme.
The furlough scheme and the self-employment income support scheme have been absolute wonders, and the loans of all different sizes and flexibility have been extremely well received. In fact, in my first ever webinar with Doncaster chambers of commerce, which of course I believe is the best in the country, a poll was carried out where all 30 delegates said that the Government had done an excellent job—high praise, but deservedly so. As a businessman, I know full well that it has been a tough time, so much so that even after all the monumental efforts from the Government things will look decidedly different post covid. I have no doubt that that genuinely frightens many people, but the longer we stay off work the harder it is for us to go back.
Let us take the building industry, for example. I have worked in this sector for many years and it is physically tough. When you have not been doing it for a while, it is hard to go back to. My ask is this: I want large firms, with furloughed employees that are waiting for another initiative while sitting on huge bank balances, to make the first move—not to use social distancing as an excuse not to go to work, but now as an excuse to go to work. We need those building companies to start finishing the houses they started pre-covid, get the footings dug for the next phase, press suppliers to make sure materials are there, pay everyone a little earlier and get confidence back in business. We can wait on Government initiatives and we can blame covid, or we can get stuck in and build our way out of this recession. Or we can all wait to see who moves first—by doing that, we will fail. Let us all start today, not on Monday or a week on Monday. Let us start now. It is imperative. I tell the building firms and all the other big companies that their workforces will thank them for it.
I also ask the Treasury to use whatever it has at its disposal to get this country back to work. I urge the Minister to consider how measures, such as reducing VAT, a reduction in national insurance contributions or scrapping stamp duty, would help to get our great businesses moving again. We cannot rely on support schemes for ever. We need to get back to work. I therefore urge every cash-rich company to do its bit and put its best foot forward and do everything it can. I ask the people of this country to do the same and our Government to consider my suggestions. We are all stakeholders in our future. We are all in this together. We will all win together, or we will all lose together. It is going to be tough, but I will do my bit. Will the risk-takers out there do theirs? If they do, our country will take its rightful place as the envy of the world.
The next Member for the Opposition has withdrawn, so we go straight to Sally-Ann Hart.
Exceptional public health decisions required to squash this virus have needed exceptional economic interventions. That is what the Government have provided through the vast economic package of support given to businesses and individuals. One email I received yesterday from a constituent, who owns Rock a Nore Kitchen, said: “As small business owners, my husband and I have both been helped by the Government. You have really looked after us and we will not forget it. The grants and furlough scheme have enabled us to keep our businesses, keep our staff, generate money into the economy and keep the high streets alive. We will recover and it is down to you all.”
Beautiful Hastings and Rye is particularly dependent on the tourism and hospitality sectors, so I was delighted to hear the Prime Minister earlier this week announce the reopening of those sectors from 4 July. This is a much needed boost to our local economy, which we desperately need. However, we also have an amazing cultural and arts sector, which has, unfortunately, largely missed out on the remarkable economic packages provided by the Government, which have helped to support over 11,000 jobs and over 5,000 self-employed people in my constituency. Now we must look to the future and see what more we can do to continue levelling up our country and turbo-charging our local economies as we recover from the health crisis.
The Government provided economic support to businesses and individuals at a critical time. Now we all have a role to play in getting out and supporting our local businesses by finding our collective confidence to do so. Together we have gripped control of this virus and together we can come out of this pandemic stronger—team UK! In encouraging visitors to our tourist attractions, shops and hospitality venues, local authorities also have a role to play in marketing our areas and banging the drum to encourage domestic tourism. With greater footfall will come more support and an energetic boost to our local businesses.
Looking to the future, we need to put rocket boosters under our creative and performing arts sector, which is the bedrock of much of the soul of Hastings and Rye, through supporting venues in my constituency from St Mary in the Castle and Hastings Contemporary to pubs such as the Crown in Hastings old town, the Piper in St Leonards and the Standard Inn in Rye—I could keep going. There are so many people who are dependent on this industry getting off the ground again. I am asking the Government to put forward a clear plan for the strategy to drive up domestic tourism, so that we can support our hospitality and cultural sectors and allow constituencies such as Hastings and Rye to bounce back after this period of lockdown. Furthermore, it would be fantastic to get reassurances from the Government that our cultural, tourism and hospitality businesses in particular will have additional measures of support to get them through the equivalent of three winters.
Coronavirus has discriminated. The poorest communities have been hardest hit, with the highest mortality rates. Between March and May this year, County Durham had the third highest mortality rate in the UK. The biggest economic impact of coronavirus will be felt in the poorest communities. In the north-east, according to the North East England chamber of commerce, manufacturing is down 54% and the service sector is down 63%. In my constituency, unemployment is now 12% above the national average, and we all know from talking to local businesses that this is going to get worse as furlough ends and companies lay off workers. I fear that, without direct Government action, the north-east of England will return to the bad old days of the 1980s, with unemployment deprivation on that scale.
There are two sectors that we need to target. The first immediate measure that needs to be taken is to support small and medium-sized enterprises—tourism businesses and others—whether through rate relief or direct support. Secondly, the Government need to bring forward those Government projects that are now ready to go. Chester-le-Street railway station could be one of those projects. Likewise, Government contracts, nationally and in the region, need to be looked at to see which firms can become involved. Departments also need to put business directly into the regions. BAE Systems in the north-east, for example, could benefit in that regard. We have a Government who are committed to levelling up, so I am disappointed that when they have the opportunity to put investment into the north-east, they do not do it. It was disappointing that the vaccine manufacturing and innovation centre went to Oxford. The second place on the shortlist was the north-east, but they chose Oxford above the north-east of England.
The longer-term strategic aim is to establish a Government taskforce for the north-east, with a Minister in charge of it—someone who will be an advocate for the region. We also need to ensure that the so-called shared prosperity fund, which will replace European investment in the north-east, is brought forward, because that involves £134 million for Teesside and County Durham. Housing projects need to be brought forward on a regional basis, and innovation and training are a must. We should also have a guaranteed job or training scheme for the under-25s. Without this direct action, I fear that the north-east will go back to those dark days of the 1980s, which was a hard time for our region. We cannot have a repeat of the lost generation that we had then, when we know what is coming.
Nearly six months ago I gave my maiden speech, in which I spoke of the international events that Brecon and Radnorshire is home to. They include the Hay-on-Wye literary festival, the Brecon jazz festival, the Green Man festival and even the international bog snorkelling championships in Llanwrtyd Wells. Sadly, all of these have been cancelled this year. Cancelling the Green Man festival in Glanusk deprives us of more than just great music. The festival employs hundreds of seasonal workers and attracts thousands of visitors, all of whom spend money in our pubs, restaurants and local shops. Some events have been able to move online. For example, the Hay-on-Wye literary festival showcased virtual events, involving more than 100 award-winning writers, policy- makers and innovators. This was a huge undertaking, and I congratulate the organisers once again on delivering Hay-on-wifi, as the Prime Minister christened it.
With my passion for farming and agriculture, I have to say that I am gutted by the cancellation of the Royal Welsh Show. This world-renowned agricultural event, the largest agricultural show in Europe, attracts visitors from far and wide, generating up to £45 million for our economy in the process. The Royal Welsh is more than just a show. It is a celebration of Wales itself. For many in the farming community, it is the highlight of the year. The social aspect of the show cannot be underestimated, particularly when one considers the isolation that so often comes with rural life— a point reinforced to me during a meeting with my local branch of Mind, the mental health charity, this week.
Having spoken to the Royal Welsh this week, I know that the team in Builth Wells are working hard to try to deliver the Royal Welsh Winter Fair in November this year, and I am pleased that the UK Government and the Secretary of State for Wales are supporting them all we can, but they need support from both our Governments. The Welsh Government have provided some support to key events such as the Eisteddfodau, our Welsh language celebrations, but nothing so far for the Royal Welsh Show.
In England, outdoor theatres can now open and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is working closely with the arts and culture sector on when indoor theatres can reopen. In Wales, we have no clarity on that. Yesterday, I received an email from Theatr Brycheiniog in Brecon. Since the lockdown, all performances have been cancelled and audiences have stayed away. The theatre staff told me yesterday that they have no idea as to when they can reopen. This could provide some optimism to the thousands of self-employed artists and performers who do not know when they will be able to return to work. Their counterparts in England have visibility, while we in Wales are left in the dark.
I have much to thank this Government for, not least the 10,000 employed and self-employed jobs that have been saved in Brecon and Radnorshire. Of course, there will always be more to do—more cause to go further—to keep on writing cheques, but the harsh reality is that the cake only cuts so many ways. This Government have dug deep to provide an unprecedented level of support in finance and guidance. If only we could say the same in Wales.
Many of my constituents have signed the petitions triggering this debate and, in particular, are calling for a dedicated programme of support for our events, cultural and creative industries. Anyone who knows Brighton and Hove cannot fail to be aware that we are home to some of the country’s most vibrant, creative and successful festivals. We lead the way nationally as well in widening access to the arts and unleashing the creative lives as yet unlived in excluded communities. Failing to directly support the creative sector puts 16,000 jobs at risk in our city alone and £1.5 billion in turnover. The consequences for the UK as a whole will be equally devastating, including for our sense of identity as a nation, which is inextricably bound up with cultural innovation from Chaucer to Banksy.
I call on Ministers to introduce urgent life support measures as other European countries have done. Germany, for example, has invested in a €50 billion rescue package. We need a similar cultural sector hardship relief fund to save live music venues, grassroots theatres, arts centres, community pubs, and any space that is a vital hub of culture and social interaction in our communities. Live music venues in my constituency are particularly at risk, and face a cliff edge when furlough ends. As one, Komedia, wrote to me,
“A world without grassroots venues is a world where the future’s talent never get the opportunity they deserve”.
I urge Ministers not to stand by and watch them go to the wall.
Those working in the events and creative industries are often self-employed and need their incomes protecting, too. Yet the self-employed scheme falls far short, failing to recognise the reality of self-employment today, penalising those who combine self-employment with PAYE work, PAYE freelancers, new start-ups and the recently self-employed, women who have taken time out for maternity leave and childcare, and anyone earning £50,000 and over. It is also a kick in the teeth for the nation’s small limited companies whose directors take all or part of their income in dividends. Therefore, as well as expanding access to the self-employed scheme, the Government must immediately extend its duration. The self-employed are still only protected until August, and that is not equivalent to the job retention scheme and it is not enough.
This must also be a green recovery in more than name, because of the accelerating climate emergency—it is currently 45 degrees in the Arctic—and because it makes economic sense as well. Plenty of evidence shows that green projects create more jobs, deliver higher returns on investment and lead to increased long-term cost savings. A green new deal recovery should invest only in industries willing and prepared to adapt to the net zero imperative. If public money is being used to bail out a company, there should be green and social conditions attached. We should not be handing over £600 million to easyJet with no questions asked. We should not be bailing out BA when it is treating its workers so appallingly.
Finally, a green recovery requires rethinking our entire economy, so that its primary purpose is human and planetary wellbeing, rather than the endless pursuit of indiscriminate GDP growth, which is destroying our planet and undermining the livelihoods of millions of people.
It should be obvious to the House that we do not have very long left. I estimate that eight more people will be called to speak. As you all have the speaking list, you will be able to work out who those eight are. If you are not among them, it is only fair that I warn you now.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Before the pandemic, pubs and hospitality employed more than 3 million people, which is 11% of UK employment, and contributed 7% of national GDP. Since the outbreak, three quarters of sites have been closed, 2.8 million people have been furloughed and 400,000 more could not be furloughed.
The Government have already done much to support businesses and pubs, through hospitality grants, discretionary payments and business rate holidays. Those measures have been vital in allowing businesses and jobs to survive this far, but hospitality will need further support as it rebuilds. That is particularly true for industries that depend on hospitality but have not qualified for grants and business rate holidays, such as breweries, and those in related sectors such as events, festivals, theatres and music venues.
To thrive post-covid, we need a successful and growing economy. That means consumers and businesses having confidence to spend and invest. Dudley South and the west midlands are rightly famous for world-beating advanced manufacturing and engineering, but we also have great businesses, large and small, innovating in creative industries, construction and technological solutions for a green economy. They must play a central role in rebuilding our economy, and the Government can help. Ministers will, by now, be familiar with the excellent recovery plan for the west midlands drawn up by our fabulous Mayor, Andy Street. His “Repowering the Black Country” programme comes with a relatively modest price tag of £30 million and is a very sound investment. The Black Country is one of seven clusters working with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy industrial cluster decarbonisation programme. Investing now will deliver accelerated green growth, by creating 2,550 jobs and safeguarding a further 2,200. It will re-shore manufacturing jobs and ensure that £14.8 billion in gross value added growth over 10 years is clean, net-zero carbon. It will unlock £400 million of private sector funding, creating the world’s first zero-carbon industrial cluster by 2030. Black Country firms are working hard to recover after covid-19, to protect jobs and to generate the prosperity that my constituents rely on. Coronavirus is, above all, a public health crisis. We must do all we can to prevent that human tragedy being followed by a prolonged and deep crash that would limit people’s life chances for years to come.
I welcome the chance to debate the support we provide to industries and the many sectors hit hard by this pandemic. We are braced for the worst economic downturn for many decades, if not centuries. Many thousands of jobs are at risk of being lost or are likely to be lost, including at Centrica, Nissan, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. We are talking about plans to cut some 12,000 jobs. At Rolls-Royce and many other companies all over the country, many of our constituents will be affected. Some 10% of the population could face unemployment; 1 million young people are likely to face unemployment by the end of the year.
This also needs to be considered in the context of what kind of deal might be agreed, and how much friction there might be, with the European Union; the risk of a no-deal Brexit causing huge disruption; and the possibility of a second wave of the pandemic. So the risks are huge, both economically and in terms of health and our relationship with our biggest trading partner. That is why it is important that our Government focus on ensuring that there is a clear and coherent economic plan to protect the jobs that have been retained with the help of the job retention scheme. It is important that employers who are not in a position to make the contribution that they will soon have to are not forced to do so, because that will lead to more job losses. It is also vital that the Government heed the recommendations of the Treasury Committee report to provide support to the over 1 million people who did not benefit. Many of them work in the sectors that we have been talking about today, including in freelance jobs in the theatre, the music industry and creative industries in constituencies like mine—more than 1 million of them need help, including the new starters and those in the hospitality sector who have been neglected.
I hope that the Government will have a clear response to support the younger generation. We cannot afford another lost generation. It is vital that we have a credible economic plan that is ambitious, bold and inclusive, and protects everyone in our country. The Government must create a new settlement genuinely to tackle the inequalities that exist in our country and to ensure that no one is left behind, particularly those who have already faced hardship.
I should declare an interest: my wife’s business has taken advantage of some of the Government support.
During the pandemic, we have rightly paid tribute to the workers of the NHS and others who have looked after us at this time. I also pay tribute to the workers in the private sector who have been at the forefront of the economic crisis.
I have been involved with small businesses for a long time in my life. I can tell Members of the absolute terror that many people have felt in my constituency, seeing their business collapse and losing 100% of their income overnight. They are desperately trying to reorganise their business to save jobs, to survive and to pull through this pandemic. That is what I have been spending my lockdown doing.
Those businesses are also being incredibly versatile. The Chequers pub in Fowlmere, the village I grew up in, was one of the first in the country to turn itself into a takeaway. In my constituency is the headquarters of AstraZeneca, which now leads the world on producing the much hoped for vaccine. It said it will do it at cost and produce 1 billion doses. We all keep our fingers crossed that it will work.
I do not need to pay tribute to the Government support in all this because across the House we have been doing that, but I have been in awe of its scale and speed. The Government—in particular, the Treasury and HMRC—have been doing years of work in weeks. My constituents have been very grateful for that support. I have heard a lot of thanks and that people have only been able to keep their companies going because of the various different Government support schemes.
Yes, as we have heard, there are gaps. I am well aware of gaps in particular sectors and that some people fall through. I am on the Treasury Committee as well, and we have taken evidence about those gaps, but almost everyone can get some form of support. There is a reason why the schemes are designed as they are. There is a trade-off between complexity and speed. Had the Government made the schemes more complex, consulting on their detail and design, they could not have been rolled out at that record pace, helping all those different businesses.
The Government have been very flexible, such as with the CBILs. When the banks were not getting those loans out quickly enough, because they had to do affordability checks, the Government introduced the bounce-back loans, which enabled them to roll out support far more quickly. However, I urge the Government to keep under review—as I am sure they will—their support schemes over the rest of the crisis.
The best way to help businesses is to get the economy going again. We should have three priorities: growth, growth and growth. Private enterprise has taken the brunt of this recession and private enterprise will lead us out of it. I urge us all to unite in supporting businesses as we move forwards.
Thank you for calling me to speak in this important, Madam Deputy Speaker.
The full effect of the coronavirus pandemic has yet to be felt, but we have already seen the impact that this invisible disease is having on my city of Coventry and on the United Kingdom. Sadly, in the months to June, as many as 270 people lost their lives to the virus in my city, according to the Office for National Statistics. Our normal way of life has changed, and some of us have mourned the loss of friends and family.
We have seen lay-offs in companies large and small. According to the Library, in Coventry North West there were 4,630 claimants for unemployment benefit; a further 3,200 claims were made to the self-employment income support scheme, which is equivalent to 71% of the potentially eligible population; and there are currently 13,100 jobs on furlough through the job retention scheme. Although the Government’s support package is commendable, my fear is that it may mask the true extent of the crisis in our jobs market, and these figures do not show those without recourse to public funds, who may be eligible for the Government’s covid-19 support package, but are unable readily to claim vital welfare benefits. I will briefly highlight causes for concern in my patch and businesses that have been affected by this crisis.
Let me turn first to the job losses at Rolls-Royce in Ansty. The UK’s aerospace sector is world-leading, supporting hundreds of jobs directly in my constituency through the supply chain. Rolls-Royce’s announcement to cut 65 jobs from its workforce of 167 at Ansty is hugely disappointing. The site is renowned for its expertise, being the only one that can weld the veins of plane propellers. From my conversations with staff and union reps at the site, I understand that they fear the company is using coronavirus as an excuse to ship jobs outside the UK, and to rehire staff on worse contracts here and abroad. There are also concerns that this move has been in the works, as their pensions will also change. Is this what the Government meant by global Britain—allowing companies such as Rolls-Royce to receive research and development funding, and job retention money, while they ship British jobs overseas?
The arts are also under threat. The brilliant Belgrade theatre in Coventry is losing income. Small businesses such as Exhibit 3Sixty have also been in touch with my office. Exhibit 3Sixty is an award-winning and successful exhibition stand design and build company based in Coventry with six permanent employees and 12 self-employed tradesmen and women. My office has been supporting Alan Craner, the managing director, who has applied for the retail, hospitality and leisure grant fund, but has been refused. Despite the Chancellor’s statement on 17 March, when he appeared to say that the exhibition sector was eligible for the same help that is available to businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sector, it seems that there is no special support for companies like Mr Craner’s. Will the Minister meet me—virtually, of course—so that I can present my cases and he can provide clarity on the support available?
I thank the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for their remarkable support for businesses in the UK, and specifically in Kensington. The Treasury put together a remarkable series of measures—really extraordinary when one thinks of the size, scale and speed of their delivery. However, I would say never let a good crisis go to waste. It is incumbent on us to learn the lessons of the crisis, and to use them to formulate a new business and industrial strategy post Brexit.
One of the key takeaways from the crisis is that we need more high-tech manufacturing and engineering capacity in the UK. We had a remarkable response to the call to action on ventilators, and I am delighted to hear that 7,500 ventilators have been provided to the NHS by UK industry. However, manufacturing capacity should already have been in place. The same issue exists with our supply chains. There is no point in having high-tech capacity in the UK if we are dependent on imports for basic components from Asia. We need an industrial strategy that focuses on our high-tech industries, whether that be telecommunications, artificial intelligence and technology, or energy.
These issues are not going to go away. I hear all the time from constituents who are concerned about Huawei’s involvement, for instance, in 5G. I hear their concerns about the involvement of China General Nuclear Power in Hinkley Point C. We also need a strategy that defends our companies from hostile foreign takeovers if they endanger our national security. I am delighted with the Government’s response, but let us see this as an opportunity to develop a strong post-Brexit industrial strategy for the UK.
London Luton airport is the fifth busiest airport in the UK, and its operation plays a central role in both Luton’s economy and the regional economy. Last year, it delivered £160 million in air passenger duty to Her Majesty’s Treasury. It was therefore no surprise to me, and probably will not be to the Minister, that the petition on support for the aviation industry had the highest number of Luton South signatories. I have also received many emails from cabin crew and pilots, from those working in security, retail, and hospitality, and from those in the wider holiday and tourism sector who work at companies such as TUI. The whole aviation ecosystem has been impacted by the crisis and they are all worried about their livelihoods.
Luton airport is not only a key jobs provider; because the airport is owned by Luton Council, each year an annual dividend is paid directly to the council to fund local council services. Covid-19 has caused passenger numbers at Luton airport to plummet by 98% and, as the airport dividend is based on a per-passenger basis, that dividend has all but disappeared too. The loss of such a vital commercial income stream into Luton Council means that it is being forced into making £22 million of in-year cuts to balance the budget. That will be devastating for services in our town and is likely to cause nearly 400 job losses at the council.
I have spoken to a number of employers and organisations linked to Luton airport’s operations and supply chain, and the common theme is that the Government’s decision not to introduce a sector-specific financial support package for aviation has deepened the sector’s economic crisis. The sector is interdependent: if one part falters, they all suffer.
We know for sure that the number of flights will not return to 2019 levels for the foreseeable future, that public health regulations will restrict day-to-day business for a long time, and that the economic implications will hamper aviation’s development towards net zero. A failure to introduce a tailored package that supports the industry in respect of each of these long-term problems will devastate the whole sector. The removal of the job retention scheme before the sector has returned to business as usual and passenger confidence has returned will lead to rising unemployment, slashed wages and, in some cases, attacks on workers’ rights. In Luton South, nearly 20% of our workforce has been furloughed, and because of the aviation sector’s uncertain future, jobs at easyJet, Swissport and Luton airport are already at risk of being cut.
There is a clear option for the way forward: a new package should include the protection of jobs and salaries, with a commitment to workers’ rights, and a clear commitment to tackling climate change for the industry, using cleaner fuels and low or zero-emission technologies. Companies in receipt of money must ensure that their tax base is in the UK; no dividends should be paid until the company has been proven to be commercially viable; and a commitment to pay UK-based suppliers must be a priority. There must be an aviation-wide bail-out package and it must be tied to social and environmental expectations.
There is no doubt that the period that we are living through has been one of the most unusual that we will ever have. It has been a tremendous challenge for us all, filled with fear and the unknown. These unprecedented times have been met with unprecedented actions when it comes to this Government: 11,200 people in my constituency have benefited from the job retention scheme and 3,100 people have benefited from the self-employment scheme. These are families and individuals who have felt more secure and safer during these incredibly challenging times.
The Government have not stopped there: from the small business grant fund, the retail, hospitality and leisure grant, and the business interruption loan scheme, through to the bounce-back loans and the deferral of VAT payments and self-assessment payments—I fear I could spend my entire three minutes outlining the amazing actions that the Government have taken over the past three months. What I will say is that I am incredibly proud to support a Government who have put ordinary workers and families first.
As we enter a new stage, I find myself in the unusual position of agreeing with the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas) in saying that it is vital that we put green concerns at the heart of our strategy. I also agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne) that we need to unleash our private sector and continue to support it, because it will be at the heart of everything that is good. It has had a very difficult time, and we need to support it.
My constituency is beautiful—it is, as I have previously mentioned, the most beautiful constituency in the entire country—and has tremendous tourism potential. We have talked about those who have unfortunately slipped through the cracks in the Government’s various schemes. One example is Creswell Crags in my constituency, which is a wonderful tourism destination. The Minister is almost certainly rolling his eyes, because he is bored of me mentioning this, but I will once again put on record that we need to continue to support that wonderful attraction and the many others in Bolsover, because our tourism potential is unlimited.
I conclude by saying once again that I am incredibly proud of everything we have done. We have a long way to go to get out of this crisis, but I believe that we are showing the leadership to get through it.
I am afraid that the next speaker will be the last person called from the Back Benches this afternoon. I call Sarah Olney.
Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker; I appreciate you giving me time to speak in this really important debate. My constituents have been in touch with me about this issue more than any other during the crisis. The crisis has revealed the complexity of the UK economy. It is a feature of our country’s creativity, energy and innovativeness that we host such a vast array of industries and businesses within our island nation. That is reflected in the myriad ways that people earn a living.
I am a member of the Public Accounts Committee, and we were taken aback at a recent hearing to find that the Government’s preparation for a pandemic did not include preparation for its economic impact. That left the Treasury with the huge task of devising and delivering its economic rescue plans when the lockdown started, and I pay tribute to it for what it was able to achieve in such a short period. As many Members on both sides of the House have pointed out, the job retention scheme—the furlough scheme—has been invaluable in supporting household incomes during this extremely difficult time. But it is clear that support was focused on those who earn salaries and pay mortgages, and, tragically, many sectors and workers were missed out. I urge the Minister to consider the lessons for future lockdown planning, although we all hope that this will not be necessary in the immediate future. The biggest tragedy is that many of those who missed out are the ones who will be most instrumental in rebuilding the economy in the months to come—our small businesses, our entrepreneurs, our freelancers, those who have taken a risk on a new business idea or taken on a new job. The Government must focus their investment on our key industries and those that will take the longest to recover.
I spoke earlier today in this place about the necessity of supporting theatres, and I extend that to the whole creative sector. Not only are they a huge earner for us abroad, but they reflect British values across the globe and are instrumental in so many ways. Beyond that, for all of us who have spent months staring at our laptop screens, it will be essential to enjoy live music and live theatre again. I spoke earlier about the necessity of using education programmes, which theatre companies and other parts of the creative sector are so good at, to engage our young people once again.
My hon. Friend the Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone) spoke passionately about the tourism and hospitality sector, and it is essential that we support all these industries through the next few months. We do not just need to support our workers in these industries; we need to plot out a strategy for their survival and recovery. If the right people get the right help now, they will be ready to revive the economy as soon as they are able to.
This is a timely debate that has not just highlighted the concerns of those who have put their names to these petitions but will have widespread resonance far beyond them. We have heard many excellent contributions this afternoon, with concerns raised covering a wide spectrum of sectors, including arts, tourism, childcare, events, aviation and steel—a full sweep of the economy—and enterprises of all sizes.
The UK Government package, as the hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne) said, was put together at speed, and as we have heard, many significant gaps have been identified. On the furlough scheme, for example, I need not dwell on the pivotal date of 19 March, which has left far too many people reliant on the good will of former employers if they are to benefit from it. The self-employed support scheme, which was unveiled after this House had broken up for the Easter recess, missed out those who were newly self-employed. Directors also missed out if they were remunerated through dividends. This makes the case, I think, for a universal basic income in that we know who everyone is, and if we give them the money to get through, then nobody, by definition, will have fallen through the cracks.
Much of the support has been based on the rateable values of business enterprises, and I can understand exactly why that is. It is clear and it is simple for local authorities to administer, but it has still left too many businesses missing out, because they were outside the relevant rateable value bands or they were not in the relevant sector, or because they were small businesses operating out of people’s homes and were therefore not on the business valuation roll.
The Scottish Government have certainly done all they can to try to plug those gaps in support with a £2.3 billion package of support. That has meant relief to the fish processing sector and to airports, support for the creative sector, plugging that gap in support for the newly self-employed, £78 million for construction and £51 million to support early-stage, high-potential companies. In all, the response amounts to over £4 billion for tackling this, when we have had £3.8 billion coming through the normal Treasury route.
However, it is important to note that the Scottish Government cannot do everything, and in trying to do more, they are finding themselves seriously constrained not only by the resource available, but by the constitutional limits placed on devolution, which have been particularly exposed in this crisis, and no more so than over borrowing powers. The borrowing powers that the Scottish Parliament has are designed to deal with cash-flow mismatches from year to year; they are not there to deal with serious amounts of investment for the future. I understand that the Finance Secretary in Scotland, Kate Forbes, has written today to the Chancellor to ask for greater flexibility around that. I hope she gets a reply that is not only swift but favourable.
This has also shown the limitations of the so-called Barnett consequentials. Too often, colleagues in Edinburgh have been left waiting to find out exactly how much is going to come through from spending decisions that have been taken in this place, occasionally finding that the money they thought was coming through was then not. It would be much better if the devolved Governments were able to decide what response they wanted to make and muster the resources at their disposal in the shortest possible time by simply having the powers to do so without reference to anywhere else.
I appreciate that we are short of time this afternoon, but I will say that borrowing powers were one of the key items identified in the report created by the Scottish Government’s advisory group on economic recovery, led by Benny Higgins. Borrowing powers were part of that, as was a series of 25 recommendations including a full review of the fiscal framework, jobs guarantees for the under-25s, prioritising a green recovery and a revised partnership between business and Government. These are all important structural changes in the economy that we absolutely need to have if we are going to make sure that the new normal is better than the old normal.
In the time remaining, let me just make a plea for the energy sector. Oil, gas and energy are absolutely crucial not just for jobs in the north-east of Scotland, but right across the UK. They are crucial if we are to maintain our energy security and effect the transition to net zero, but it is an industry on the brink of thousands upon thousands of job losses. The Scottish Government have invested £62 million to do what they can to assist in that. We desperately need a sector deal. Together with my hon. Friends the Members for Aberdeen North (Kirsty Blackman) and for Aberdeen South (Stephen Flynn), I have made a plea to the Chancellor for just such a sector deal. Again, we hope for a swift and favourable response.
In conclusion, the support to date from the UK Government has been very welcome where it has landed, but desperately missed where it has not. All too often, it has failed to land. The economic challenges we face as the crisis evolves give us a new landscape. The challenges change, but are no less urgent and much remains to be done. I say to the Minister that if the UK Government are not willing to use the powers they have to address those shortcomings and to tackle the additional issues that need to be tackled, they should devolve those powers to Governments elsewhere in these islands who will use them.
It is a pleasure to respond to this wide-ranging and well-subscribed debate on behalf of the Opposition. I start by thanking all right hon. and hon. Members who have taken part in the debate today, and the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers) for opening it. I also pay tribute to the initiators of each of the petitions under consideration and, by my calculation, the nearly three quarters of a million people who collectively signed them for making today’s debate possible.
As numerous right hon. and hon. Members referred to in their remarks, the debate takes place in the midst of a pandemic that is taking a severe toll on our economy. Barring a second wave of the virus, the worst may now be behind us, but the fiscal impact wrought, the dramatic rise in the unemployment rate and the prospect of many sectors continuing to operate at reduced capacity for some time point to the trials that lie ahead.
Let me underline for the record that the Opposition welcomed the unprecedented measures that the Government took, in essence, to put our economy on life support in the face of a near total shutdown. The fact that we are here today debating urgent petitions signed by hundreds of thousands of people working in a range of industries is testament to the need to further refine those measures and build on them where necessary to protect as many people’s incomes, jobs and businesses as we can.
In the time available to me, I will pick up on three points that have been prominent during the debate. The first is the need for further improvements to the measures already introduced to support businesses and individuals. The second is the need for support packages for certain UK industries, tailored to their needs. The third is the need for a more strategic approach to the recovery than that which defined the rescue.
On the first of those points, the House needs no reminding that it is people who are the bedrock of the productive capacity that firms, and thereby industries, will need to bounce back now that the immediate crisis is subsiding. That is why we must continue to do what is necessary to protect their livelihoods, their jobs and their businesses through this difficult period. That is why we continue to press the Government to fix the gaps and deficiencies in the various financial support schemes that have already been established. There is still time to do so.
There is still time for the Government to revise the job retention scheme to cover employees currently shut out from it, and still time to revise the self-employment income support scheme to help those it currently excludes. There is still time to further reform the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme, so that more companies can access finance and liquidity easily to make it through the crisis, as well as access more patient capital.
There is still time—this brings me to my second point—to revisit the one-size-fits-all approach that has underpinned the design of many of those schemes and appears to be dictating the Government’s approach to sectors and industries across the board. The various case studies raised by right hon. and hon. Members from all parts of the House are a vivid illustration that the pandemic’s economic impact has not been felt uniformly across different sectors, but also that the rate at which sectors can reopen and restart will differ markedly. If we are to successfully navigate the next phase of this crisis, logic dictates that a more differentiated approach is needed.
Such an approach will undoubtedly pose challenges for the Government, but if Ministers do not concede that established schemes will have to be redesigned so that they can enable a flexible sector-by-sector response, and if they do not concede that targeted support packages will be needed for the industries most in need, we risk many more firms going under and many more jobs being lost. There is, however, no real sense that the Government have accepted as much.
Taking three of the industries whose plight is the focus of the petitions we are considering today, the early years sector is under huge pressure, with many providers on the verge of ruin. As a report released this morning by the Early Years Alliance and Ceeda makes clear, the impact of collapsing relevant revenues from significantly reduced demand and the increased costs that come with making establishments covid-safe are falling on a sector that was already struggling financially before the pandemic took hold. It looks set to lead to significant funding shortfalls and mass closures. The industry needs more help.
As many hon. Members referred to in their speeches, not least my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Jeff Smith) and the hon. Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), the arts and creative industries, as well as the sectors heavily dependent on them, have been hit particularly hard. That sector will be one of the last to reopen because of the difficulty—in many cases, the impossibility—of operating theatres, live music, festivals and other events and performance in line with social distancing measures. The Culture Secretary told the Evening Standard on 8 June that a package of support was “imminent”, yet weeks later nothing has materialised. That industry desperately needs more help.
In powerful contributions, my right hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami) and my hon. Friends the Members for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell) and for Luton South (Rachel Hopkins) highlighted the fact that the aviation sector stands on the brink of devastation as a result of the pandemic, and several airlines have already announced plans for significant redundancies. Research from the New Economics Foundation and the TUC earlier this month warned that at least 70,000 jobs in the wider aviation industry are at risk before the end of the summer alone. The Opposition recognise that aviation must change to tackle runaway global heating, but current developments are chaotic and suggest the absence of any long-term strategy for the industry. It needs more help, as do so many others.
When the Minister stands up, I hope that he can give the House and all those watching our proceedings an indication of when sector-specific support packages, including access to emergency funding, will be forthcoming for these industries and others that are crying out for help, including hospitality, aerospace, the motor industry and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Stephen Kinnock) pointed out powerfully, steel. If the Minister is unable to do that, will he at least provide some reassurance that the Government recognise the urgency with which such tailored packages are required by the industries in question and that Ministers accept the need to make changes to existing schemes, such as the furlough, so that their phasing out mirrors the pace at which industry is able to return to some semblance of normality?
That brings me to my final point—I will be brief in making it, Madam Deputy Speaker. As we look to ensure that our industries get the ongoing support that they need, we must plan strategically for the future. That means support, yes, to ensure that our industries do not fall behind their international competitors in the years ahead, but also support that is designed to achieve other important national objectives, not least responding to the environment and climate emergency. Our European neighbours are using this crisis as an opportunity to do just that, and the Government should look to match and even surpass their ambition by coming forward with support that will retain and create jobs, accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy and address a range of regional and wider inequalities—a point made very powerfully by my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali).
In conclusion, the Opposition recognise the scale of the challenge that the Government have had to confront, as well as the speed with which the current schemes had to be designed and implemented, but, as the OECD made clear, our country is on course to suffer the largest economic hit from the pandemic among major nations this year. In the face of such an emergency, we on this side of the House and the three quarters of a million people who signed these petitions are not demanding the impossible. We are simply asking the Government to act decisively and spend smartly to protect industries that contribute so much to our economy and our society, and on whom so many people rely.
It is a pleasure to contribute on the Government’s behalf to this debate, which comes as countries across the world continue to battle one of the worst public health emergencies in our history. I thank Members on both sides of the House for their valuable contributions, both in this debate and in the months and weeks before, and their work to highlight issues that I know we all care very deeply about.
It would not be a debate without an intervention from the hon. Gentleman.
We discussed this this morning: can I request the Minister’s help for Bombardier in Belfast and Newtownards in my constituency, where 600 manufacturing jobs are under threat? Would he accept the letter from me with Bombardier’s 16-point plan and be so kind as to arrange a response?
I would be happy to take the letter and ensure that the hon. Gentleman gets an appropriate response from the correct Minister.
The importance of this debate is demonstrated by the fact that hundreds of thousands of people signed the petitions. Of course, we are in an unprecedented global crisis, and this Government have provided an unprecedented, wide-ranging level of financial support in response to protect jobs, businesses and incomes across the country. Under the coronavirus job retention scheme, we have supported over 10 million people and at least 1 million businesses. We have supported 2.6 million self-employed people and given out £26 billion in bounce back loans alone, not to mention the support in the form of grants for small businesses and for those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. Given the direct and acute impacts of the covid-19 pandemic on those latter sectors, the Government have also provided a business rates holiday for businesses in retail, hospitality and leisure, so that all eligible businesses will pay no business rates for 12 months. This support is worth almost £10 billion to those businesses.
Several Members, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers), asked about nurseries. We absolutely recognise the important role that nurseries play in young children’s lives at the very start of their education. Recognising that, we made sure that nurseries were also on the list for the business rate holiday.
On the broader financial package, when it became clear that more help was needed, the Chancellor announced in May that the furlough scheme would continue until the end of October, and in its current form until the end of July, supporting furloughed workers as they gradually return to work.
The Government have provided a wide and unparalleled level of financial support during the pandemic to help workers in every sector and in every region of the UK, but we knew that as we entered lockdown, as part of our battle against this disease we would need a number of targeted interventions to protect jobs and businesses in some of our most beloved and hardest-hit sectors, including those identified in the petitions. We have had a good and thorough debate about those sectors today. Working groups have been set up by various Departments to work on the path to recovery and to identify what further support may be required, and discussions with the Treasury are taking place.
Will the Minister put it on the record that the creative industries contribute a huge amount to our economy and improve everybody’s mental wellbeing? Will he recognise that, welcome though the support schemes were, many freelancers and directors of limited companies, particularly in the creative industries in my constituency, have been left—
I thank the hon. Lady for her passion. That passion is shared by Ministers at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and elsewhere, and conversations are ongoing about further support.
Hon. Members will appreciate that, given the time constraints, I am unable to respond to many of the other specific points and questions that were raised today relating to multiple Government Departments and other bodies. However, I will make sure that relevant Ministers are aware of all the points that have been raised in this debate.
I cannot mention individually everyone who has contributed to today’s debate, but I thank everybody for their thoughtful and constructive comments. In particular, I would like to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet; my hon. Friends the Members for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), for Ynys Môn (Virginia Crosbie), for Buckingham (Greg Smith), for Hastings and Rye (Sally-Ann Hart), for Brecon and Radnorshire (Fay Jones), for Dudley South (Mike Wood) and for Bolsover (Mark Fletcher); the right hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami); and the hon. Members for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell), for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali), for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone), for Coventry North West (Taiwo Owatemi), for Luton South (Rachel Hopkins) and for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) for mentioning tourism, hospitality and leisure—and, of course, aviation. Obviously, that sector is very close to my heart.
I would also like to thank those who have mentioned many other sectors, including my hon. Friends the Members for Broadland (Jerome Mayhew), for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher), for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne), and for Kensington (Felicity Buchan), and the hon. Members for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), for Stockport (Navendu Mishra), and for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson), who raised issues about the arts, technology, zoos and many other important sectors.
Before I conclude, I want to praise my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Darren Henry), who made a very eloquent maiden speech. He talked with passion and pride about his work, about his West Indian heritage, about this land of opportunity and about his 26 years in the RAF. That is particularly timely this week, which is Armed Forces Week. He is rightly proud of his family, and he has done his family proud. His constituency can be equally proud to have an MP of his calibre as their representative in this place.
It has been a great pleasure to participate in today’s debate, and I thank everybody for their contributions. This debate has been extraordinarily valuable, and I am sure that the dialogue will continue.
I thank the Backbench Business Committee for making possible these first debates from the Petitions Committee on the Floor of the House. I thank all who have contributed. Above all, I would like to thank once again those who created and supported the e-petitions. The e-petitions were started by Matthew Rakowski-Goreta, Miles Croxford, Oliver Tooley, Evgenia Galinskaya and Anand Limbachia, who can all be assured that their voices have been heard by the Government in the support package and by Members in this House this afternoon.
As others have done, I commend the Government for a package of support that has saved the livelihoods of so many millions of people. It was delivered at phenomenal speed. My experience in Government makes me think that it is so difficult to get even the smallest thing done at speed. The speed of the reaction was essential. I ask the Government to reflect on those gaps in provision that have been identified, particularly by the Treasury Committee: the newly employed, the newly self-employed, directors of limited companies, and freelancers on short-term contracts. I also echo the strong points that were made about securing the future of aviation and, of course, of the performing arts and culture, where the need for support and for a plan for reopening is urgent.
I close by echoing the comments, praise and thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Darren Henry). It was a great honour that he made his maiden speech in the debate for us all to hear. It was a heart-warming story, and I wish him well with his tenure in the House.
This is rather extraordinary, because we are ending a couple of minutes early. We all encouraged people to speak so quickly and to be so brief that those who spoke latterly were so disciplined in the way they did it that we end up with a couple of minutes, as it were, to spare. But there is never time to spare; there is always something else to do in this House, so I shall put the Question.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered e-petitions relating to support for UK industries in response to covid-19.
I am very happy that in these couple of minutes that remain before 5 o’clock, I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that Her Majesty has signified her Royal Assent to the following Acts:
Birmingham Commonwealth Games Act 2020
Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act 2020
Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020.
I do not think that I need to suspend the House in order to allow people to leave and other Members to come in safely. I think that if I simply filibuster from the Chair for a moment or two, all Members who are currently in the Chamber might be able to leave towards the Bar of the House and those who are about to take part in the next proceedings can appear from behind the Chair.