Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Tuesday 28th June 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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Our country is facing its highest tax burden since the 1950s, although it should be acknowledged that, more recently, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has been bringing taxes down rather than putting them up. Does he agree that, with the elevated level of inflation, now is not the time for dramatic cuts, but that once inflation starts to recede—hopefully at the end of the year or into next year—that will be the opportunity to come forward with serious tax cuts to get growth and jobs going and to support our constituents?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I thank my right hon. Friend, the Chair of the Select Committee, for his constructive and thoughtful dialogue with me on these issues. He makes an excellent point, and I direct him to the tax plan that we published at the spring statement to indicate the direction of travel on tax. There will be tax cuts in, I think, a day’s time to help people with the cost of living, tax cuts in the autumn to drive growth in business investment and innovation, and further cuts to personal taxation thereafter, once the situation stabilises.

Economy Update

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Thursday 26th May 2022

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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I broadly commend the announcement. My right hon. Friend has made a significant intervention to channel billions of pounds in a targeted series of transfer payments to those who most need it, but, as he will know, similar approaches were taken in the pandemic and there were many who fell through the gaps and missed out on support.

I note the additional £0.5 billion increase in the household support fund, which is welcome. Will my right hon. Friend set out to the House how he arrived at that figure and why he feels it will be adequate for the demand?

On the issue of inflation that my right hon. Friend raised, these transfer payments will stimulate the economy—granted, they will come with some tax increases as well—but will he share with the House his assessment of the inflationary impact of the announcement he has just made?

Finally, will my right hon. Friend appear before the Treasury Select Committee immediately after recess so that we can look at these matters in greater detail?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I thank my right hon. Friend for his questions and for his thoughtful advice on how best the Government should respond to the current situation. We put extra support into the household support fund because, very specifically, the one group of those on means-tested benefits to whom we cannot deliver money automatically is those who receive only housing benefit, because that is administered by local authorities. That is the main group that needs that specific help, but of course there may well be others, which is why the fund is there.

On the inflationary impact, I believe it will be manageable, but my right hon. Friend is right to highlight it. That impact is why it is important that the support we provide is targeted where it can make the most difference, and that it is temporary and timely, and gets help to where it is required. That is the right approach: being fiscally responsible is going to help us to combat inflation in the long run.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Tuesday 17th May 2022

(2 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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Naturally, there has been criticism of the Bank of England, given the level of inflation and its inflation target, but among that criticism there have been reports that some in government, including perhaps one member of the Cabinet, have been suggesting that the independence of the Bank of England should be removed. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is essential that our central bank is independent in order to maintain the credibility and integrity of our monetary policy? Will he give a categorical assurance to the House that there are no plans of any kind to restrain the independence of our central bank?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I thank my right hon. Friend the Chair of the Select Committee for his important intervention. I agree with him wholeheartedly. While we face challenges at the moment, the record of 25 years of central bank independence speaks for itself, with an average inflation rate of exactly 2%. I know all colleagues will want to make sure that we return to that as swiftly as possible, and I can assure him that that is both my and the Governor’s ambition.

Financial Statement

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Wednesday 23rd March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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I broadly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Of course, the devil will always be in the detail and we look forward to seeing him at the Treasury Committee next week, along with the OBR and various economists, including from the IFS, which he mentioned.

I welcome the cut to fuel duty. That will help motorists and consumers and be important for businesses. The VAT reduction relating to energy efficiency and solar is very important in the context of the sanctions on Russia and energy self-sufficiency, where we can achieve it. The hardship fund will be a very targeted measure, which is important, and small businesses will be delighted to have heard about the increase in the employment allowance to £5,000, which was a key ask of the Federation of Small Businesses.

Along with many others in the House, I would have liked the NI increases for next year to have been scrapped in their entirety. However, the threshold increase that my right hon. Friend announced today has been very significant—far more significant than I imagined it would be.

This is the big question that my right hon. Friend will be asked: in the context of the fiscal targets, which I think we all agree that we need to meet, has he used enough of the headroom now as opposed to having that as a hedge against future uncertainties, to which he alluded and which are very real, in terms of inflation, interest rates and the effect on the cost of Government borrowing? Will he say a bit more about the fiscal headroom—he will have had the advantage of seeing the OBR figures, which I have not—and his assessment of that, particularly around the deficit target?

On growth, my right hon. Friend pointed out the OBR downgrades, which are not surprising in a high inflationary environment, and the dampening effect that they will have on consumer demand. I was very pleased that he referred to his Mais lecture, because it will be essential for us to focus on innovation, people and driving up capital investment.

My right hon. Friend referred, I think, to a consultation on how to improve capital investment, on which we lag behind our G7 competitors. Will he tell us more about the timeline for that consultation and when he expects to be able to provide important certainty for businesses in that respect?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I thank my right hon. Friend for his words of support. Let me briefly address his two substantive questions.

The tax plan published in the spring statement document today has a range of options for cutting taxes on investment. I look forward to having a conversation with my right hon. Friend, with colleagues and with the business community about the right way to achieve the outcomes that we want. The final decisions will be announced in the autumn Budget and will take effect in spring 2023 after the super deduction ends; I will not get into the detail now.

We have about 1% of GDP as headroom against both the stock and the flow rules on debt falling and on borrowing. On the borrowing side, that is approximately in line with previous Chancellors. On the stock rule, it is a bit less: the average over the past decade has been about 1.7%. The headroom includes the tax cut in 2024, which has been fully paid for and costed in these numbers. I believe that we are taking a responsible and pragmatic approach, but my right hon. Friend is right to point out the risks. The OBR has said that relatively small changes in the macroeconomic outlook could wipe out the entire headroom. That is why it is right that we continue to be disciplined on public spending.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Tuesday 22nd June 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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The hon. Lady is wrong, because the Government did no such thing. Indeed, guidance on usage of the furlough scheme was there in black and white—I am looking at it—and plain for everyone to see from the start. At the beginning of this crisis we improved the way that statutory sick pay works to deal with self-isolation. That was one of the earliest steps we took. We then introduced a rebate scheme for small and medium-sized businesses, to claim back the cost of statutory sick pay for isolating employees from the Government. We also introduced a £500 self-isolation payment, which once the isolation period reduced from 14 to 10 days increased in value by 30% and is now worth at least the national living wage to a worker, if not 20% or 30% more, depending on how many days they isolate for. That shows that the Government are supporting those who need to self-isolate. They did so at the beginning of this crisis, and they will continue to do so until the end.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con) [V]
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Given the rapid pace of our economic recovery and the plans for the further reopening of the economy, I support my right hon. Friend’s decision to phase out furlough by the end of September. However, does he accept that a small number of sectors are likely to require yet further support after that time—not least the travel sector, whose revenues, according to evidence received by the Treasury Committee, have suffered a 90% fall during the crisis?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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My right hon. Friend is right to highlight the difficult circumstances facing that sector, which is why I think in aggregate more than £7 billion of support has been provided to the sector through various means. He will know that there are some particularly large companies that talk to the Government on a bilateral basis. It would not be appropriate for me to comment on those conversations, but he will of course be aware of the support we have put in place, for example, for regional airports, the vast majority of which are paying no business rates for the first half of this year. As he would expect, we keep everything under review.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Tuesday 27th April 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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What I believe to be a more noble objective is to focus on the day-to-day concerns of the Scottish people at this difficult time, which involves making sure that the economy recovers, that the vaccines are rolled out and, of course, that our children receive the education they deserve. These are the issues that I know the Scottish people will care most about in the coming weeks.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con) [V]
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Due to the increasing concentration of wealth in older generations, the value of the average inheritance received by younger generations is becoming significantly greater through time. Does my right hon. Friend recognise this trend and the fact that it means that living standards will increasingly be determined not by skill, entrepreneurship and hard work but by chance, which will have a detrimental impact on social mobility? While it is absolutely right that families can pass on wealth to their loved ones, does my right hon. Friend none the less recognise the strong trend here, and if so, what steps might he consider taking to address this?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I would say two things to my right hon. Friend. First, he will know that in the Budget we recently froze the inheritance tax thresholds for four years, which will provide some alleviation on the concern that he mentioned. Secondly, I believe that the best way to drive social mobility in our society is to provide everyone with the skills and education they need to make a better life for themselves, which is what this Government are committed to delivering.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Tuesday 9th March 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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With regard to VAT, I am sure the hon. Lady knows that the majority of businesses in the personal care sector are below the VAT threshold, so they do not actually pay any VAT. What we did do is include that sector in the more generous restart grants, so, depending on their rateable value, businesses in that sector, like those in hospitality, will be able to receive grants of up to £18,000.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con) [V]
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I very much welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcement in the Budget of the super deduction, which will definitely have a very positive impact on investment. Of course, it will primarily do that by pulling forward what would have been future investment into a more recent time period. What measures is my right hon. Friend looking to, to ensure that that increase in corporate investment in the shorter term is continued into the medium and longer term?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I am glad my right hon. Friend recognises the importance of the super deduction. He is right that it will bring forward investment, but I believe it will also increase the amount of investment as well, given the attractiveness of doing so. What I would point him to are a couple of other announcements in the Budget. One is a consultation to reform our research and development tax credits regime, which we hope to conduct over the course of this year to make sure of support for investment in R&D in a way that reflects current R&D practices. Secondly, our freeports agenda contains enhanced capital allowances, and structures and building allowances, which last well beyond the period of the super deduction and will serve as an incentive for capital investment in those areas for years to come.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Tuesday 26th January 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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As an accountant herself, my hon. Friend knows all too well the fantastic job that these people are doing, under enormous strain, at this current time. I know that, as she said, she warmly welcomes the announcement yesterday by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to waive penalties until the end of February for late filers. She is right to say that we must make sure that everyone is aware of this, and we are doing everything we can, on all our channels of communication, to get this news to businesses. I ask other colleagues across this House to do exactly the same in their constituencies.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con) [V]
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There is a looming bloodbath for many businesses at the end of March, when the moratorium on commercial landlords taking action against tenants in arrears comes to an end. Does my right hon. Friend recognise that acute danger? What action might he consider taking to avoid it?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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My right hon. Friend knows that the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government is engaged with that issue and has worked with the industry to put in place various codes of practice to encourage good and constructive dialogue between landlords and tenants throughout a difficult situation. There are promising signs that that is happening.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Tuesday 1st December 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Rishi Sunak)
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The economic impacts of coronavirus and the substantial fiscal support provided have meant a necessary increase in our deficit and debt levels this year. That is the right thing to do to combat the pandemic, but once the economic recovery begins and uncertainty recedes, we will return our public finances to a sustainable and strong position.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con) [V]
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There are reports that the Treasury has created an economic impact analysis, providing significant detail on the effect of coronavirus across the various sectors of the economy. For each sector, this analysis allocates red, amber and green ratings for revenue, jobs and financial stability. Given the vote tonight, may I ask my right hon. Friend why that analysis has not been published?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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My right hon. Friend will have seen the analysis we did publish, which talked specifically about sectoral impact. In the document, there were specific links to the various places that people can find GVA and employment by sector and, indeed, the financial resilience of local businesses at some stages by sector and by region. It is that analysis, as we have said, that will determine the particular economic impact in an area. That information is all provided in the report for people to look at.

Spending Review 2020 and OBR Forecast

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Wednesday 25th November 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I will address all the points made by the hon. Lady in turn, but it is important to note, up front, that despite her criticisms, there is actually a lot that she and her Opposition colleagues should welcome: more funding for public services; a pay increase for NHS workers; support for those on the lowest incomes; a once-in-a-generation investment in infrastructure; a multi-billion pound commitment to support those looking for work; a new schools building programme; and the Prime Minister’s 10- point plan. I could go on, Mr Speaker.

It is right that the hon. Lady should provide challenge, but I think, even if she does not, that the British people will judge this spending review as a reflection of their priorities: protecting jobs, defeating coronavirus, strengthening our public services and upgrading our infrastructure. If there is any politics here at all, surely it is unifying, and I think that, deep down, she will recognise that.

Let me address the specific points. The hon. Lady asked about pay and the importance of consumption, and I agree that of course there is an impact on consumption from pay. She will know that the marginal propensity to consume is obviously greater the lower down the income spectrum you go, which is why, in particular, we have protected the incomes of those on lower incomes.

Anyone in the public sector earning less than the UK median salary of £24,000 will receive a pay rise of £250 or more. Taken together with all the other things we have done, including giving a pay rise for those who work in the NHS, this will mean that the majority of public sector workers will see an increase in their pay next year. Also, pay progression and promotions—all of that—will carry on. We have increased wages for those on the national living wage: an extra £345 a year, as the wage rate goes up to £8.91. That, again, will help to drive consumption.

The hon. Lady rightly talked about delivery. We believe very firmly in making sure we can deliver the change we promised the British people. The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, my right hon. Friend the Member for North East Cambridgeshire (Steve Barclay) and I chair something called project speed, which is already delivering benefits, with plans for the landmark A66 upgrade shortened in time and reduced in cost, so we can get on with delivering what the people want on time and on budget, making a difference in their communities.

The hon. Lady asked about the levelling up fund and, I thought rather bizarrely, seemed to suggest that local Members of Parliament were not a good reflection on their local communities and able to articulate the local needs of their communities. I say to colleagues on the Opposition Benches that I am more than happy to hear from them and their local areas about the needs that they want met, because this Government will meet the needs of local communities up and down the country.

The hon. Lady talked about support for businesses during coronavirus. We have already put in place support through this winter period. The local restrictions grants we announced a while ago are paid monthly and they work. If your business has been closed, you will receive a grant of up to £3,000 per month depending on your rateable value. If you are a hospitality, leisure or accommodation business in a tier 2 area, where obviously the restrictions have an impact on your ability, you will receive a grant of 70% of that value up to £2,100. Those amounts mean that the business can help to cover the fixed costs of rent. They, of course, have access to the furlough scheme right the way through winter.

That comes on top of the other recent support announced for businesses. Today, I announced major reforms to the way the apprenticeship system works, giving businesses what they have long asked for: the flexibility to spend unused apprenticeship levy funds down the supply chain with small and medium-sized enterprises, and the ability to frontload payments for training. We are also looking at ways to introduce even more flexibility for some professions. We also recently announced an extension of the annual investment allowance for a further year up to £1 million, giving 98% of small and medium-sized businesses the ability to write off investments in full next year, which will help to drive their recovery.

The hon. Lady talked about welfare. Again, I stand proud of this Government’s and previous Conservative Governments’ record on this issue since 2010: hundreds of thousands fewer people in absolute poverty; several hundred thousand fewer children living in workless households; and income inequality lower coming into this crisis than when we first came into office.

This Government care greatly about those who are most vulnerable. We have demonstrated that during this crisis by the support we have put in place. The evidence shows that those on the lowest incomes have been protected the most by this Conservative Government. And that does not stop. The temporary uplift in universal credit runs all the way through to next spring, providing security for those families. Of course we will look, when we come to next spring, at the best way to support people and their families when we have a better sense of where the economy is and where we are with the virus, but we are providing extra support for next year: £670 million to help struggling families meet their council tax bills, worth about £150 each for families up and down the country. We also said we will maintain the £1 billion increase in the local housing allowance that we instituted this year into next year, providing support for many millions of families. We are also making available further funds, as the House knows, to provide extra support for food and meals for children throughout the holidays next year.

The hon. Lady talked about support for local authorities. Perhaps she has not seen it yet in the document—that is fair enough—but we announced over £3.5 billion of extra support for local authorities next year specifically to deal with coronavirus. That comes on top of their core spending power increasing at decade-level highs of 4.5%. That £3.5 billion is there to help to meet the shortfall in sales fees and charges, and the unrecoverable losses in business rates and council tax that they have experienced this year, as well as £1.5 billion for general pressures. Let no one say that we are not standing behind our local authorities at this difficult time.



Finally, the hon. Lady asked about green issues. I think she compared us with France and Germany and questioned this Government’s and the Prime Minister’s ambition. Let me say this about our plans. They are, I believe, among the most comprehensive and ambitious of any developed economy. She talked about France and Germany, but in this country we are phasing out certain vehicles in 2030; in France, it is 2040. In this country, we are phasing out coal in 2025; in Germany, it is 2038. She talked about the billions of pounds being spent by our friends, but it is important when we make these international comparisons that we understand the detail of what the other countries promise. The German numbers include the subsidies for renewables; ours do not. That happens separately outside our plan and is worth £44 billion, supporting renewable energy in this country through the tariff system, which is what Germany alluded to. The German numbers also include support for public transport, which ours of course do not, because that is something we do just in the ordinary course of business. I am proud of this Conservative Government’s record. We are the first major economy in the world to legislate for net zero, and our economy has decarbonised faster than any other in the last 20 years. This Conservative Government will deliver the Prime Minister’s plans to get us to net zero, and that is something that I hope the whole House can welcome and support.

In conclusion, this spending review puts the full force of the Government behind the priorities of the British people, and while we may have many disagreements with the Opposition, I am confident that, in private at least, they will recognise the significant investment we are making to protect jobs, strengthen our public services and improve our infrastructure. We in this House are all answerable to the people we represent, and it is in their interests that we serve. Today, we have made some difficult choices to fulfil that responsibility, but with the positive news about the development of vaccines, the winter covid plan being announced by the Prime Minister and the very real hope that we are finally entering the final stages of our fight against coronavirus, now is the time for us to come together. The British people have been through so much this year, as have right hon. and hon. Members, and it is my belief that, with this spending review and the fresh hope given by medical advances, we can finally begin our recovery. Now, difficult decisions and all, we must deliver on the priorities of the British people.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con) [V]
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I very much welcome many of the positive measures that my right hon. Friend has just announced. However, he has inevitably revealed some of the more difficult decisions that he has to make around a reduction in overseas development aid and the freezing of public sector pay next year—not across the board but on a selective basis—and there will be many difficult decisions of that type around spending and taxation in the future. Does he agree that, in terms of dealing with the deficit, it is not just about spending and taxation but also very much about growth? Does he also agree that we should look to private sector businesses and entrepreneurs to provide that growth? Can he set out how he is going to ensure that, as we come out on the other side of the crisis, businesses and entrepreneurs are given every possible support and freedom to power our economy forward over the years ahead?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I completely agree with my right hon. Friend that we will build our recovery through the dynamism of the private sector, and he is right about the power of entrepreneurship. Probably the most important thing we can do in that regard is to make it as easy as possible for businesses to take on new people. He will have heard about the unemployment numbers. We want to get as many of those people back into work as quickly as possible, so we will be looking at how we can make that as easy as possible for those dynamic businesses that are growing. At a very micro level in this spending review, we have also announced more funding for our start-up loan scheme, which provides discounted Government-backed loans of up to £50,000 for budding entrepreneurs to start their new businesses at the smallest level. I hope that that is something that he will support.

Economy Update

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Thursday 5th November 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. The claim that our action was too late is, in the words of the Government’s own medical advisers, a misapprehension, because there is no perfect moment at which to enact measures that have far-reaching and damaging consequences for the people and businesses of our country. We should only enact such measures when it becomes truly unavoidable. It is also entirely false of Labour Members to claim that things would somehow be different if only we did what they suggested, because they could not actually explain what their position was. At first, it was a circuit breaker for two weeks. Then it was an intervention that might last longer—I think yesterday we heard three weeks—and then it was something that would need to be reimposed again and again and again. That is not a plan that would support the businesses and people of this country.

The hon. Lady asked about the NHS. We have provided the NHS with tens of billions of pounds to ensure that they can do the very valuable job that they are doing, and they will have our full support over this difficult winter period. She asked about support for local authorities. We have provided just over £1 billion to give local authorities the ability to support their local businesses and economies through the winter period, on top of the direct support that those closed businesses will receive. She also asked about supporting local track and trace efforts. I agree that that is important, which is why we have provided, on a transparent funding formula, almost half a billion pounds to local authorities to ensure that they can carry out enforcement, compliance and local contact tracing at the level that they need.

The hon. Lady called for a six-month plan, yet she and her party have not put forward a six-month plan of their own, and I understand why. It is because they know—as most Members of this House, and most people and businesses in the country, know—that we are dealing with a once-in-a-century event. They know—as most Members of this House, and people and businesses up and down the country, know—that in the face of such an unprecedented crisis, the Government must be flexible to ever-changing circumstances. It is not a weakness to be agile and fast moving in the face of a crisis, but rather a strength; and that will not change.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con) [V]
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I agree with my right hon. Friend that taking an iterative approach to these problems as circumstances change is a strength rather than a weakness, but may I just focus for a moment on the lockdown itself? As my right hon. Friend will know, the minutes of the SAGE meeting held on 21 September stated:

“Policy makers will need to consider analysis of economic impacts and the associated harms alongside this epidemiological assessment. This work is underway under the auspices of the Chief Economist.”

My right hon. Friend knows that I wrote to him asking that the analysis referred to in those minutes be provided prior to the vote on lockdown that was held in the House yesterday, as this would have helped to inform that debate. The reply that I received did not provide the information requested, so will he confirm that the SAGE minutes are accurate when they state that the Treasury has worked on this analysis under the auspices of its chief economist? If they are accurate, will he confirm that the Treasury will release this analysis without delay?

Covid-19: Economy Update

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Thursday 22nd October 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con) [V]
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I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Once again, he has listened to businesses. When it comes to lockdowns—I have to say that I agree with the remarks he has just made about circuit breakers—may I draw his attention to the minutes of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies meeting on 21 September, which state:

“Policy makers will need to consider analysis of economic impacts and the associated harms alongside this epidemiological assessment. This work is underway under the auspices of the Chief Economist.”?

Will my right hon. Friend update the House on the progress that has been made by the chief economist? Does my right hon. Friend agree that, to ensure a balanced public debate, the chief economist or a similar economic expert should join the epidemiologists for No. 10 covid press briefings?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Opposition referenced the SAGE minutes but seemed to forget about that part of them, which rightly struck a balance between protecting jobs and protecting lives. He can rest assured that the Government will always do that. I may spare the chief economist the pleasure of attending the press conferences, but my right hon. Friend is right to say that that analysis is taking place. I have presented some of it at the press conferences, and I am happy to talk more about it at the Dispatch Box.

Fundamentally, my right hon. Friend knows, as I do, that our economy faces enormous strain. Almost three quarters of a million people have already lost their jobs, and, sadly, more will. That is why a regional, targeted approach is the right one. It allows us both to protect lives and to protect livelihoods.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Tuesday 20th October 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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With the greatest respect, the hon. Gentleman is mistaken in his characterisation of the support provided and confusing two different things. He is absolutely right: the support is £8 a head. That is the national funding formula that is provided to all local authorities entering tier 3. That is the same as is provided in Lancashire and indeed, in the Liverpool city region, and that is the amount that he refers to, which is done on an equitable basis for all local authorities. The additional amounts he talks about were reached in negotiation with my right hon. Friend the Communities Secretary and representatives of the Government. That offer remains available to Greater Manchester, and that is why I hope they engage in these negotiations constructively.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con) [V]
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My right hon. Friend has done a great deal to support jobs in our country, but he will know that lockdowns destroy jobs and lead to increased mental illness and a smaller economy that for many years will be less able to look after our most vulnerable. Does he agree that the Government should come forward urgently with a comprehensive review of the impact of lockdowns, not just in terms of epidemiology and the effect on the NHS, important though that is, but in terms of the economy, businesses, jobs and the country’s social wellbeing?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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As ever, my right hon. Friend makes an excellent point. He is right about the damage to not only non-covid health outcomes but people’s jobs and livelihoods and the long-term damage that that will cause to all our health outcomes. With regard to projections, he will know that both the Office for Budget Responsibility and the International Monetary Fund project 3% scarring, which will mean our economy potentially being £70 billion to £80 billion smaller in the future than it otherwise would have been. As he rightly says, that will obviously have an impact on our ability to fund public services and protect people’s jobs and livelihoods.

The Economy

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Thursday 24th September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I thank the hon. Lady for her comments. On the question of continued support for jobs, however, I had hoped that she would have welcomed strongly today’s measures, if for no other reason than that she has previously asked for something similar. However, her position on this matter has been somewhat changeable. At different points in the last few weeks and months, she has said that furlough should not go on for ever, and then changed her mind and said that we should extend it. Then she changed her mind and said it should be replaced, and then only yesterday the Leader of the Opposition said it should be extended again. That is not the kind of certainty that British businesses or British workers need.

To address the specific questions, this scheme absolutely does incentivise shorter time working. The company will pay its workers for the time that they are in work, and the Government and the employer jointly will subsidise the time the worker is not working. The conditions will be set out in guidance, which will be published shortly, and then over the next few weeks the further details will be worked through with businesses and unions, as we did with the furlough scheme.

I can reassure the hon. Lady that the new scheme does indeed have the conditionality that is appropriate for this stage of our response. Notably, this scheme will be available only for larger companies that are seeing a decline in their revenues as a result of coronavirus, ensuring that our support is targeted where it is most needed. Similarly, there will be restrictions on larger companies in capital distributions to shareholders while they are in receipt of money for their workers under this scheme. Indeed, they will not be able to give redundancy notices to those workers who are on this scheme throughout its duration.

We have increased training both for post-16 at the Budget and, indeed, in the recent plan for jobs, providing increased access for school leavers to level 2 qualifications across the board. Notably, one of the hallmarks of our skills system is our successful apprenticeship programme. What we announced in July was a significant increase in the incentive payment to businesses for taking on a new apprentice: a £2,000 cash incentive to businesses to take on an apprentice and provide that valuable in-work training that we know makes such a difference to young people’s futures. So we are committed to providing especially our young people with the opportunities that they need to succeed in the future.

The hon. Lady talked about jobs. In July, we outlined a £30 billion plan for jobs—to support, create and protect jobs across every part of our United Kingdom. Chief among the initiatives was the kickstart scheme, where right now employers—small, medium-sized and large—are rushing to put in applications to take on a young kickstarter later this autumn, to provide them with the opportunities that they need at an incredibly difficult time. I can assure this House and the country that my No. 1 economic priority is to protect people’s jobs, and that is what this Government will continue to do.

In conclusion, the Opposition wanted the furlough extended, but they never said for how long. Then they wanted the furlough replaced, but they would not say what with. Then they wanted the furlough targeted, but they would not say on whom. I do stand ready to work with the hon. Lady, if she knew exactly what she wanted. Today, the Government stand with the British people and British business, with the CBI, the British Chambers of Commerce and the Trades Union Congress, in bringing much-needed support to the economy. Yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition called for a plan B for the economy. The Labour party does not even have a plan A.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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The devil, of course, will be in the detail, but from what I have heard, I broadly and warmly welcome this statement. I am encouraged by the job support scheme and the fact that it is targeted, for which I and my Committee have been calling for some time. I am encouraged by the announcements on loans and the pay-as-you-grow scheme, particularly to help small and medium-sized enterprises, and I am encouraged that the self-employed will have their scheme extended.

However, my right hon. Friend will know that there was considerable concern that many self-employed people fell through the gaps of the support provided. Will he say something about whether some of those gaps will be ameliorated or ironed out as a consequence of the new measures, and will he meet me in fairly short order to discuss the options that might be available?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments; I am sure he will see in much of what we have announced today some of the thinking in his latest report. I thank him and his Committee members for all the input they have provided in helping us to think about the next phase of our economic response. He is right that this package focuses on employment and, indeed, on supporting businesses with their cash flow.

With regard to the self-employed, I am glad my right hon. Friend welcomes the extension of the existing support grant. Virtually no other country in the world has done that, and it comes on top of the most generous support for our self-employed of almost any country throughout the response to this crisis. Of course, I will be happy to meet him, but I know he will also be pleased to learn that the measures today to defer income tax self-assessment will be of particular importance to our self-employed small businesses.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Tuesday 15th September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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Many self-employed people have received the second of the self-employment income support grants—almost 3 million people have now received support through that scheme—but the hon. and learned Lady is right that the best way to provide support for people in that industry is slowly and safely to reopen those bits of our economy. My colleague the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary of State is engaged with that industry to start piloting the return of business conferences and events. The situation remains under review.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con) [V]
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My right hon. Friend has done a tremendous amount to support jobs in our country, but does he agree that many thousands, perhaps even hundreds of thousands, of jobs are going to be viable after covid is dealt with but will not make it unless they are provided with further targeted support after the end of October?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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As ever, I am grateful for the advice from my right hon. Friend. He is right that businesses do need support, which is why many of the interventions that we have put in place—for example, the business rates holidays and, indeed, our support for the economy and jobs through initiatives such as our stamp duty cut to catalyse the housing market—last through to next year. I hope he will be reassured that throughout this crisis I have not hesitated to act in creative and effective ways to support jobs and employment, and I will continue to do so.

Economic Update

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Wednesday 8th July 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend’s plan for jobs is characteristically thoughtful, creative and bold, and I firmly welcome it. He has rightly said that we look to businesses to grow the jobs of the future, yet we know that many hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized enterprises will emerge from this crisis saddled with significant amounts of corporate debt, and we will look to them at that moment to be investing in jobs and growth, rather than being concerned about de-leveraging and shoring up their balance sheets. So may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he has given this particular issue specific thought, and if he has, what solutions he might have to bring to this House?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I very much welcome my right hon. Friend’s support, and thank him for that. I also thank him for the advice he has provided to me over the past few weeks and months. He is right to highlight the issue of leverage; it was good that, on coming into this crisis, levels of corporate indebtedness in the UK were the lowest for around a decade and ranked very favourably when compared with most OECD countries, but he is right that we want to make sure that that is not a drag on our recovery. I am currently looking at proposals from a range of people, including my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and Harpenden (Bim Afolami), TheCityUK and others, and I look forward to discussing those with my right hon. Friend.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Tuesday 7th July 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con) [V]
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Guidance has recently appeared on Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs website that suggests that those who take covid-19 tests, as provided by their employer, will have to treat the cost of those tests as a taxable benefit in kind, which is very unfortunate, particularly in respect of those frontline workers who may be involved. Will the Chancellor look into this matter, please, as a matter of urgency?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I am delighted that my right hon. Friend has raised this issue with me, and of course we will look into it very quickly.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Monday 18th May 2020

(4 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con) [V]
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Thank you, Mr Speaker.

The future fund will provide venture capital-backed businesses with vital support, but of course it excludes investments made through the enterprise investment scheme and the seed enterprise investment scheme. It is certainly the case that there is significant public subsidy within those two schemes. However, businesses supported by them still face the challenges of the virus and, where successful, still go on to generate significant numbers of jobs. Will my right hon. Friend therefore take a second look at the qualification requirements for the future fund to see whether EIS and SEIS might be accommodated in some way?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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As my right hon. Friend will know well, EIS is a notified EU state aid, and that is what presents the challenge to providing EIS relief for convertible loan instruments into the future fund. That said, guidance was published today, and the fund will be open for applications on Wednesday. I have been crystal clear that should applications exceed the initial £250 million provided, I will be more than happy to expand the scheme. I think this will be a vital part of fuelling our recovery, because, as he said, these companies provide the growth of tomorrow and they deserve our support.

Covid-19: Economic Package

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Tuesday 12th May 2020

(4 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I thank the shadow Chancellor for her warm wishes and for the constructive support for today’s announcement. I will address two specific points that she raised. First, the word addiction is not one that I have ever used and it is not one that I agree with. Nobody who is on the furlough scheme wants to be on the scheme. People up and down the country believe in the dignity of their work, of going to work and providing for their families. It is not their fault that their business has been asked to close. It is not their fault that they have been asked to stay at home. That is why I established the scheme to support those people and their livelihoods at this critical time. I wholeheartedly agree with the shadow Chancellor in that regard.

On the next steps, I am pleased to tell her that I have already been talking to the TUC and, indeed, the CBI about the future; helping those people to get back into work who, unfortunately, may lose their jobs through this period. That issue weighs heavily on my mind. Every person who loses their job through this difficult period is a person the Government are determined to stand behind, whether that is with new skills, new training or indeed through supporting businesses to create new jobs. We are determined to make sure that that happens. I look forward to continuing my conversations with Opposition Members and with the trade unions, the CBI and other business groups as we look forward to a brighter future. As we get through this crisis, people can come back to work and we can create the jobs and opportunities, and a brighter future for tomorrow.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con) [V]
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I broadly welcome the statement the Chancellor has made relating to furlough and, in particular, the additional flexibilities that he has outlined, most notably about part-time working. However, as we come through this crisis, many businesses will be saddled with significant debts just at the time that we are looking to those businesses to invest and to grow the economy. Does he therefore agree that it is vital that the Government come forward as soon as possible with a clear plan as to how they are going to assist those companies with that indebtedness in terms of debt forbearance and equity finance so that they can fire up the economy and grow the jobs that the country will so desperately need?

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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As always, my right hon. Friend makes an excellent point. I agree that debt is not the answer to all businesses’ problems at this time, which is why we have provided business with unprecedented degrees of direct cash support, with cash grants of £10,000 or £25,000 for up to 1 million businesses and 750,000 businesses benefiting from a cut in their business taxes and tax deferrals. All of that will help. With regard to equity in supporting the future, I hope he will agree that the Future Fund that we have announced will be part of that solution, with the Government matching essentially quasi-equity investments in early-stage companies to ensure that they are here to power the growth and innovation we will need as we recover from this crisis.

Economic Update

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Tuesday 17th March 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the constructive attitude with which he approaches some of these issues. I very much welcome his desire to work with me to try to solve some of the pressing issues that face our nation.

I will try to answer as many of the right hon. Gentleman’s specific questions as possible, starting with financial security for our most vulnerable people. I wholeheartedly agree that this is a priority and should be a priority, which is why, in the Budget, we made significant changes to the operation of statutory sick pay, universal credit, and employment and support allowance to ensure that people had quicker and more generous access to a support system for them and their families. We have already invested £1 billion to provide that extra security, but of course we keep all these things under review. As I said, the next step of our plan is to focus on providing support to people, their incomes and their jobs over the coming days.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about insurance for the leisure sector. I can confirm that, after extensive meetings today between my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury and the insurance industry, the insurance industry will honour insurance contracts that would have been triggered if the advice had been to ban certain things, rather than it being advisory not to do them. That has been agreed and negotiated by my hon. Friend. I thank him for those efforts, and I thank the insurance industry for doing the right thing.

The shadow Chancellor asked, rightly, about renters. Of course, I announced measures today on mortgages. He is absolutely right that the biggest fixed cost that many families face will be their rent payment, and it is right that we have regard to that. I can tell him that my right hon. Friend the Housing Secretary will, in the coming days, make a statement with further measures to protect renters through these difficult times.

The shadow Chancellor asked about other countries and their experience, and about global leadership. He mentioned some specific examples of schemes. I can assure him that I am in touch with my counterparts across the G7 and the G20 to understand how schemes in other countries work. He mentioned, for example, employment support schemes in both Germany and Denmark. I say to him and to the House that, whatever package or scheme we come up with that we believe will provide the appropriate support, it is important that we can operationalise that at speed. The difference between our system and that of many other countries is that they have these systems already in place, so it is far easier for them to step them up quickly. We need to make sure we come up with a solution that can be delivered so that it makes a difference to people quickly, which is why I am happy to work closely with unions and business groups to see what will make the most sense.

On international leadership, I say to the right hon. Gentleman that it was widely noticed by other countries that last week, in this country, we saw both monetary and fiscal policy—the Government and the Bank of England working independently but in a co-ordinated fashion to provide significant support and confidence to the economy. That was acknowledged by people, including the International Monetary Fund, which noticed what happened here and pointed at it as an example for others to follow.

On the scale of our response, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look at the analysis comparing the scale of the fiscal support that various different countries are providing. Again, I think he will find that the package of measures announced both last week and today shows that we have one of the strongest responses of anybody in the G7 as a percentage of GDP to the significant challenge that we face.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about the delivery of the loan scheme and it is right to focus on how it will be delivered. We have been working at pace over the past week to make sure that the loans can be delivered not by the British Business Bank, but by individual retail banks on high streets up and down the country. Again, because of the work of the Economic Secretary, that will happen by early next week: businesses will be able to walk into their local branches and request a business interruption loan that has been backed by the Government on these attractive terms. Again, we have to work with the systems that we have. We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good because we want to be able to deliver these schemes as quickly as possible to businesses up and down the country.

The right hon. Gentleman asked about support for a variety of sectors. I can tell him that I have urgently asked my Cabinet colleagues to convene roundtables and engagement with their particular industries to understand if there are specific measures we should be looking at, on top of the measures for airlines and airports that we can look to address in the coming days. All the sectors he mentioned will be covered by that.

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman: when it comes to providing support to larger companies, if the taxpayer is going to be put at risk in supporting those companies, it is right that the taxpayer is rewarded on the other side. That is a principle with which we also wholeheartedly agree. He can rest assured that, as we negotiate those situations, we will always protect the interests of taxpayers.

The right hon. Gentleman rightly asked about public services. Our No. 1 priority is to ensure that the NHS has everything it needs to get through this period. I made that commitment last week. I re-echo that commitment today.

On the Barnett consequentials, the right hon. Gentleman will have seen this week that we released the full amount of the Barnett consequentials resulting from the Budget package in advance to all devolved authorities. Today, I announced the overall quantum. Again, we will quickly release those, in advance of those payments being released in England, to the devolved authorities, so they can plan appropriately.

The right hon. Gentleman can rest assured that all the specific public service issues he mentioned, whether school meals, schools and social care, are under active and urgent consideration.

I will end on this point. Our public servants, in particular those working hardest in our NHS right now, deserve nothing but our support at this difficult time. I want them to know, and I want the country to know, that we will do whatever it takes to get through this.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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These are truly shocking times and a great weight lies upon the shoulders of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. I hope it is felt right across the House that we wish him every success in his endeavours to steer us through this crisis. He has come forward with a huge response to the current situation, which I know will, in many quarters and businesses up and down the country, provide some reassurance. There are, however, inevitably some areas on which there is still work to come, not least in terms of the employment support package. I note the fact that he will shortly be engaging closely with trade unions and businesses to flesh that out. May I urge him to do so as quickly and promptly as possible? Does he know at this stage when the conclusions of that exercise may be reached, so that we can provide vital reassurance to employers and employees who fear for their jobs up and down our country? This is a time in our history where not just days, but hours matter.

Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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I thank my right hon. Friend for his thoughtful support. I can tell him that we are working on those proposals urgently and plan to have answers for both him and the House in the coming days, ideally next week, with an early thought of what we can do. As I said, designing these schemes will take an appropriate amount of diligence and care. That is what we are focused on urgently as we speak. He is right: this is about hours, not days and weeks.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between Mel Stride and Rishi Sunak
Tuesday 11th February 2020

(4 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rishi Sunak Portrait Rishi Sunak
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Post-16 education and skills are a priority for the Chancellor and the Government. I am pleased to say that the recent spending round delivers a £400 million increase in funding for post-16 education, which makes it the fastest rise in a decade and means that the per pupil base rate that the hon. Lady mentions will go up faster than the schools total.

Mel Stride Portrait Mel Stride (Central Devon) (Con)
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My right hon. Friend the Chancellor will know that I have written to him about the legal duty that the OBR has to produce two economic forecasts in each financial year, which of course has been complicated by the cancellation of the last Budget. Can I ask him to set out for the House the approach that he intends to take and how he will avoid the necessity of having two forecasts very close together saying essentially the same thing?