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Coronavirus: Employment

Volume 678: debated on Tuesday 7 July 2020

What assessment he has made of the potential effect on levels of unemployment of withdrawing the (a) coronavirus job retention scheme and (b) self-employment income support schemes. (904355)

If he will develop a scheme based on the future jobs fund to support young unemployed people into work. (904362)

What support the Government are providing to self-employed workers affected by the covid-19 outbreak. (904363)

What assessment he has made of the potential effect on levels of unemployment of withdrawing the (a) coronavirus job retention scheme and (b) self-employment income support schemes. (904365)

What fiscal steps he is taking to support people unable to return to work as covid-19 lockdown restrictions are eased. (904378)

Through the coronavirus job retention scheme and the self-employment income support scheme, the Government have protected 9.4 million jobs and supported the incomes of 2.7 million self-employed. I remain committed to helping the unemployed return to work and supporting those who are most vulnerable to job loss. We will continue to monitor economic conditions to ensure our labour market policy response is both appropriate and effective.

In his announcement of the self-employment income support scheme, the Chancellor told self-employed people that they have not been forgotten and no one will be left behind, but the Treasury Committee has found that more than a million people have been unable to benefit from either that scheme or the job retention scheme. That is certainly what I am finding in Rotherham. Will he commit himself to acting to ensure, true to his word, that no one is left to face this crisis alone?

Some 95% of those who are majority self-employed are able to benefit from the self-employment scheme. In its design, its duration, the breadth of its coverage and the generosity of its support, the scheme remains the most generous and comprehensive self-employment support scheme in the world.

We are facing the worst economic recession in history and a climate crisis. Despite the warm words yesterday, the green finance announcement does not go far enough. Germany is investing between £40 billion and £50 billion, France £13.5 billion and South Korea £11.5 billion, so £3 billion just does not cut it. Given that half a million 16 to 24-year-olds are currently unemployed, will the Chancellor commit himself to properly financing a green jobs guarantee to give our young people a future?

The hon. Lady mentioned plans from other countries. It is worth bearing in mind that those plans relate to spending commitments over many years and are actually better compared with what we outlined in the Budget, where we set out a £600 billion investment programme over the remainder of this Parliament, including many initiatives such as carbon capture and storage, the nature for climate fund and improvements in air quality. Conservative Members wholeheartedly believe in a green revolution, and we will provide the capital to make that happen.

I pay tribute to all the small business owners in Ashfield and Eastwood who have worked really hard to get ready for the reopening of their businesses last weekend in a covid-secure manner—places such as the world-famous Diamond Club, the Dog and Parrot, the Bus Stop Café, St Joseph’s Social Club and the outstanding Teversal Camping and Caravanning Club site. Although I am grateful to the Chancellor for all the financial support he has provided, does he agree that the only way to protect jobs and businesses in the long term is to safely reopen the economy?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. No support scheme can substitute for safely reopening our economy. I enjoyed seeing his Facebook page with his tour of Sutton, Eastwood and Huthwaite, and all the establishments that he mentioned—including a candle shop, I believe—and I pay tribute to all his local businesses for following the guidance and implementing safe measures so that they can welcome their local communities back with open arms.

The Government’s intervention to provide financial support to the arts is welcome, but freelance creative workers have received little or no support from the furlough scheme or the self-employment scheme for over 100 days. What specifically will the Chancellor do to correct this in the rescue package announced for the creative industries?

Those in the creative arts, like others, can benefit from the self-employment scheme and other interventions that we have put in place, but it is important to know what happened yesterday: a £1.5 billion support package for our cultural institutions up and down the country, from our crown jewels—our globally recognised assets—to our local community theatres. They will all be able to benefit from the support we have put in place and preserve what is so special about our cultural heritage.

I thank the Chancellor for all he has done so far, and I look forward to his statement tomorrow. He mentioned unemployment, and we are aware that it is rising, so one of the most important things we can do is to get people back into work as quickly as possible. In Newcastle-under-Lyme we are benefiting from the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire local enterprise partnership redundancy and recruitment triage service. Will he welcome that? There are areas where employment is growing, and if we can get people who have been made redundant into those jobs as quickly as possible, we will minimise the devastating effects of this coronavirus.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The importance of job matching is critical and the evidence shows us that it works. I know from my time as a local government Minister the innovative approach that Councillor Atkins and his team on the county council and the LEP have taken to various economic initiatives. I pay tribute to them for putting this in place with such speed.

The aerospace sector has already said that 9,000 jobs will go in the UK. The north-west is going to be specifically badly affected if the Government just sit back and allow this export-strong, high-skilled, high-wage sector to be decimated. Germany has put a big package in place. America has put a big package in place. France has put a big package in place. So what is the Chancellor going to put in place to protect and guarantee the future of the aerospace sector in the long term?

The interventions in France and Germany related to specific companies, so it obviously would not be appropriate for me to comment on those in this place at this time. The support put in place in the US was primarily to support domestic connectivity. This Government have done that by subsidising considerably our bus network and our rail network to make sure that intra-Union connectivity remains through this crisis.

Will the Government abandon their one-size-fits-all wind-down of the furlough and self-employed schemes and adopt a targeted strategy that acknowledges that hotel workers, chefs and self-employed lighting technicians cannot and should not be treated in the same way as workers in sectors that are already back at full capacity?

The most important thing for all these sectors is for them to be safely reopened. That is why I am delighted that last weekend we were able to meet the target set out in our reopening plan. The Prime Minister has spoken about reopening our remaining closed sectors in the coming weeks, which is welcome news. The hon. Lady is right that these sectors have faced hardship. That is why, as I said, they have received considerable extra support from the Government in the form of business rates holidays and cash grants.

Thousands of job losses have been announced in recent days, and many more are expected if the furlough scheme is withdrawn from all sectors at the same time. With young people facing the most difficult labour market conditions for a generation, and many otherwise viable businesses in trouble because of social distancing rules, does the Chancellor accept the case for employment support being aimed directly at the sectors most likely to be hit by job losses in the coming months?

Those who call for a sector-specific approach are not always able to articulate exactly how they would define those sectors and also the supply chains that they serve. The most important thing is to have provided broad, generous and swift coverage to protect 9 million jobs, as this Government have done, and now to reopen these sectors so that we can get as many of those people back to work as quickly as possible to the jobs that they have.