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Volume 677: debated on Tuesday 16 June 2020

Mr Speaker, may I join you in your words about our former colleague, Jo Cox?

We have introduced the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill to help companies maximise their chances of survival. The Bill introduces new corporate restructuring tools and temporarily suspends part of insolvency law to help businesses keep trading.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. I was proud to make my maiden speech on Second Reading of that very important Bill, which will provide vital safeguards during the coronavirus pandemic. Can he tell me what benefits it will have for businesses, not just in my constituency of Heywood and Middleton and across the north-west but in the wider country?

My hon. Friend is proving to be a real champion for businesses in his constituency, and he raises an incredibly important point. The impact assessment of the Bill’s measures suggests that the three permanent changes to the UK insolvency framework will result in net benefits to business of over £1.9 billion in today’s prices, which is a much-needed boost for businesses at this uncertain time.

I welcome the Secretary of State back to the Dispatch Box after his recent illness. Businesses in Newcastle-under-Lyme and across the country face the risk of insolvency, especially those with business models that are dependent on socialising. In addition to what he has set out, which I welcome, can he tell us what Companies House proposes to do to support businesses at threat of insolvency?

My hon. Friend raises an important point, and this is part of the Bill. While Companies House has extended the period for filing accounts, we will give businesses the maximum period available under the powers in the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill for filing their accounts, confirmation statements and event-driven updates. At a time when many companies are focused on surviving, that will be very welcome respite.

Mr Speaker, may I echo your sentiments on the tragic loss of Jo Cox?

Businesses facing insolvency will be under further pressure with the premature end to the furlough and self-employed schemes, and loan schemes are of little help, because they simply add to a pile of debt. Does the Secretary of State agree that the sectors hit hardest by covid-19 need long-term support to survive and rebuild, which means extending the furlough scheme and support loans being written off or converted to equity?

The level of support we have provided across the economy is incredibly favourable by any international comparison. The furlough scheme will be in place for a full eight months. That is precisely the support that we have been very keen to give to businesses.

Tourism is worth £10.5 billion to the Scottish economy, and before the pandemic it provided 8% of jobs. While some businesses will soon be able to reopen outside areas, vital public health rules and consumer sentiment will mean that most activity is subdued. Will the Secretary of State follow the Scottish Government by setting up a tourism taskforce and use his Government’s reserve powers to cut VAT for tourism and other sectors, to help firms that are at risk of insolvency?

As I am sure the hon. Gentleman will know, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is working with the tourism sector, and there is regular dialogue with it. I recognise the concerns that he has raised about this sector, which is closed, but that is why we have provided particular support through a rates holiday for hospitality businesses.