Skip to main content


Volume 673: debated on Wednesday 18 March 2020

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his invitation. I am happy to consider his invitation to Rhondda and will take it up.

What I really hope is that the Prime Minister will look at the whole coronavirus crisis through the eyes of the Rhondda, because we have a large number of sole traders, chippies, electricians and plumbers. We have a lot of people in very insecure employment. We have got lots of people who are elderly and people who are on very low incomes and have next to no savings. Many people have already been laid off this week or are worried that they are going to be laid off in the next fortnight, so we really do need the Prime Minister to address these matters.

If I am honest, I do not want to be partisan, but it does feel as if we are a bit of an afterthought. I really beg the Prime Minister to look through the eyes of the Rhondda, because I think he would then double sick pay so that it is a sensible figure. I think he would introduce something like a summer version of the winter fuel allowance so that the elderly get some help. I think he would probably introduce some kind of VAT holiday for sole traders. I know he hopes, and we all hope, that the whole of the country will bounce back quickly after this, but I say to him that after the floods and the poverty that we have historically suffered in the Rhondda, communities like mine will find it phenomenally difficult to bounce back if he does not take that kind of action now.

The hon. Gentleman speaks powerfully and passionately and, in my view, wholly rightly for the people of the Rhondda. I can tell him that our thoughts in this Government are with the people of the entire country in helping everyone to get through this virus. We will do, as I say, whatever it takes to support business and, as I said in my earlier answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, also to support individuals and families. I welcome the agreement of the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford), the leader of the Scottish National party that we should do it on a cross-party basis.