House of Commons
Wednesday 8 July 2020
The House met at half-past Eleven o’clock
[Mr Speaker in the Chair]
Virtual participation in proceedings commenced (Order, 4 June).
[NB: [V] denotes a Member participating virtually.]
Oral Answers to Questions
The Secretary of State was asked—
The Under-Secretary of State for Wales and I have regular discussions with the First Minister of Wales and his ministerial team on the response to covid-19, totalling 124 meetings and calls since the pandemic began.
As the Secretary of State knows, the Welsh Labour Government are making a thank-you payment of £500 to every social care worker in Wales. Does he agree that it is a kick in the teeth to those workers that the Treasury intends to tax that bonus payment, and will he join me and the Welsh First Minister in urging the Chancellor to think again?
We have discussed this at Wales questions before. It is disappointing that the Welsh Government did not discuss this in greater detail with the Treasury earlier on, because we could have found a way around it. Those discussions are ongoing, and there is a reasonably positive dialogue, but as I say, the answer to this would have been found in earlier engagement, rather than by making an announcement that they knew required primary legislation for which there was not time.
On Friday, the First Minister of Wales said that it had been “impossible” to get a “sensible answer” from the UK Government on the plans to allow travel to foreign countries. At the beginning of this crisis, we regularly heard from the First Minister that he had just come off a call with the UK Government, and we know that ministerial implementation groups were being used to co-ordinate a four-nations approach. Despite the numbers that the Secretary of State quoted, there seems to be a communications breakdown. Does he believe that the Government could have done more to work more closely with Wales and other devolved nations during this crisis?
I was talking to the First Minister about this only a few days ago, and he described the particular occasion that the hon. Lady refers to as the exception rather than the rule. As I mentioned, there have been 124 meetings between the two Governments. Actually, dialogue is pretty good, and in eight out of 10 cases, we reach agreement—albeit not necessarily in the greatest of humour, but we do reach agreement. The relationship is better than we sometimes read in the press.
The loss of over 1,400 jobs at Broughton is a devastating blow for the not only workers on site and in the supply chain but the whole economy of north Wales. What discussions has the Secretary of State had recently with Airbus and Welsh Ministers, and when will his Government come forward with a specific sector deal to support the aerospace industry in Wales and across the UK?
I am pleased to report that we have had regular conversations with Airbus throughout the pandemic and very recently, as well as with Welsh Government and stakeholders in the north Wales and Broughton area. Airbus has reported that the industry has had between £6 billion and £10 billion-worth of UK Government support so far. Discussions with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are ongoing about other areas where help can be provided. My colleagues, led by my hon. Friend the Member for Delyn (Rob Roberts), have been at the front of that, looking at any other areas in which we can help the industry to remain in Broughton not just now but in five and 10 years’ time. We are open to further discussions.
Sadly, there are not just sectoral problems for aerospace. With Bridgend now reeling from the INEOS threat to take jobs elsewhere, it is clear that Wales and the UK face fierce international competition. Can the Secretary of State explain what he and his Government are doing to develop a UK-wide industrial strategy and a trade policy that will help to retain, create and attract the new green jobs of the future?
I have initial discussions with INEOS tomorrow. This is a deal between the Welsh Government and INEOS, so in a sense, that question should be addressed to the relevant Minister in the Welsh Government. That said, the inability or unwillingness of Welsh Government to make any moves at all on improving the M4 relief road have played a part, it is rumoured, in the decision that INEOS has taken. In the wider context, I hope the hon. Lady can remain in her seat or one near it for Prime Minister’s questions and the statement from the Chancellor afterwards, as I believe that some of the questions she raised may be answered at that stage.
Covid-19: Tourism Industry
The UK Government have provided unprecedented support to enable the tourism industry in Wales to get through the pandemic. Now is the right time for the industry to reopen safely, and I have urged the Welsh Government on many occasions to share their plans to ensure that Wales is not left behind and can make the most of what is left of the summer season.
Many of my constituents in Stoke-on-Trent South will be hoping to be able to get a holiday in Wales this summer, so as we reopen, will my right hon. Friend do everything he can to ensure that my constituents will still get a well-earned break and enjoy everything that Wales has to offer?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to point out that tourism, like covid, does not recognise political boundaries, so we are very eager to welcome his constituents—indeed, him and anybody else in the House who wishes to visit Wales—once the lockdown has been properly lifted. It is really important that there is a road map to that position. Wales wants to be back in business; it needs to be back in business, and that leadership needs to come from the First Minister of Wales. It has been a bit messy up till now, but there is still time for him to correct the untidiness around the reopening so that tourism can resume.
The people of Darlington have a great fondness for Wales. [Interruption.] Can the Secretary of State outline what representations he has made to the Welsh Government to encourage them to open up their economy, so that my constituents and others from across England can enjoy all its attractions?
I am not sure that I understand why there was sniggering from the Opposition ranks in response to the point that the residents of Darlington might want to visit Wales. We absolutely want residents of Darlington and everywhere else to visit Wales, as has always been the case, but it does need a clear plan; and what has been lacking so far is a clear plan that enables our tourism industry to welcome with open arms residents of Darlington and other places back into the country in the few remaining weeks of the season.
The UK internal tourism market will be very important for the rest of this year, not only for Wales in Rother Valley but for Wales as a nation, so does my right hon. Friend agree with those in the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions who, before they delivered their vote of no confidence in the Welsh First Minister, said that the Welsh Labour administration was “destroying the survival chances” of the tourism industry in Wales?
We really should take some time to reflect on that. As far as I can remember, that is the first time ever that a major representative body, the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions, has not only passed a vote of no confidence in the First Minister, but also said that his Government are “destroying the survival chances” of an industry in Wales. That, surely, must be the most shameful description of a devolved Government that we have heard in this Chamber.
My hon. Friend is right that 160,000 jobs are dependent on the industry—9.5% of the workforce of Wales. It deserves far better treatment than it has so far had at the hands of the Welsh Government, and I welcome his ability to raise it in the House—
Order. I appeal to the Secretary of State: we have a lot of questions to get through; let us have shorter questions and answers.
My right hon. Friend will appreciate the interdependency between the economies of north Wales and north-west England. We often see holidaymakers travelling between both regions, and in Blackpool, we are always pleased to welcome visitors from north Wales. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to improve transport links between the two regions, which will boost not only tourism, but the economy more generally in a post-covid-19 world?
I will endeavour to be briefer than I have been so far. We have already delivered a £50 million project of railway upgrades in north Wales. We have commitments to the A55 improvements. There are numerous other accelerated plans for infrastructure. As I said in answer to an earlier question, tourism and covid do not recognise political boundaries. Such attempts to improve infrastructure will continue.
Many tourists will go to Wales from England and, indeed, Cornwall. What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that those travelling, or thinking of travelling, know the differences between any lockdown rules that we have and any that are in place in Wales?
My hon. Friend makes a good point. I think that residents of Wales and other places have become fatigued by the completely confusing array of messages coming out of Welsh Government in relation to what they can do, what they cannot do, and how far they can go to do it. That is gradually being cleared up. However, we do not want residents of Cornwall to decide that they cannot come to Wales and therefore align themselves with another part of the UK at our expense because of this lack of clarity. The perfect example of that is Llanymynech golf course, where you tee off in England and the ball lands in Wales.
There is mini-Budget talk of a VAT cut for hospitality, and it is fantastic if this is true, because Plaid Cymru has been pushing for it since 2008. Would the Secretary of State support a clear plan for targeted Wales-specific VAT cuts for specific sectors, such as tourism and home improvements, so that our small-employer economy can recover as quickly as possible?
I am going to goad the hon. Lady into having to wait a little longer to hear what the Chancellor has to say in his statement at half-past 12. I would just point out to her, though, that at every possible opportunity the UK Government—I emphasise, the UK Government —have embraced jobs, livelihoods and businesses across Wales in a way that is unprecedented in modern times. I am sure that even as a nationalist, she would like to thank the UK Government and the Chancellor for those very special efforts they have made on behalf of the people of Wales.
The Secretary of State has very kindly answered my question with a question. I will take it, because he has not said no, that he is interested in Wales-specific VAT reductions, and I look forward to talking to him more about that.
Another initiative we could introduce in Wales is one introduced in countries such as Malta and Poland—voucher schemes to encourage domestic tourism to help the recovery. Ahead of the Chancellor’s statement, would the Secretary of State support the introduction of a Welsh tourism voucher scheme to be spent on outdoor attractions, accommodation and transport—trains and buses—which would be a much-needed boost to make the tourism industry work for the people of Wales?
I think the first part of the hon. Lady’s question is aiming too low. Referring to Wales as just a tourism industry in its own right does not go anywhere near embracing the opportunities that tourism in Wales, and the jobs associated with it, has as part of the Union push. My message to her is just to have a look at the interventions that the UK Government have made so far, let alone anything that may come later today, in support of that and many other industries. It is a bit like the sketch, “What have the Romans ever done for us?” I urge her to look at those figures, because I think she will be as pleased as the rest of the House is.
Ynys Môn is the most dependent of any constituency on tourism. My island constituency needs jobs, skills, employment and investment if this Government are to deliver on their levelling-up agenda. Will the Secretary of State commit to helping our island by championing Ynys Môn’s capacity to play a leading role in the decarbonisation of the UK economy?
There is no greater champion of Ynys Môn than my hon. Friend, on this and numerous other issues. In particular, her work around Wylfa Newydd has been outstanding and is ongoing. I would urge her —as I am afraid that I have become boring in saying to other Members—to remain in her seat for just a little longer, because I think that some of the subjects that she has raised may get a greater airing later.
As we know, the tourism and hospitality sector has been hit very hard by this pandemic, and despite the best efforts of operators across Wales, this year will be a very difficult one for those in the industry. Can the Secretary of State get the Government to act now and extend the furlough scheme to the tourism sector to avoid workers facing a cliff edge later in the year?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, there have been significant interventions already, with £2.4 billion-worth of Barnettised income for Welsh Government, plus over twice that in terms of the other interventions that the Welsh workforce has benefited from, particularly in tourism and hospitality. One in three workers in Wales is currently being supported by the furlough scheme. It is not for me to comment on what the Chancellor may or may not be saying in a few minutes’ time. As with so many other questions this morning, I can only say that if he can remain patient for as long as possible, he may find some interesting comments will be made.
Tourism is extremely important to mid-Wales. I am grateful to the Secretary of State for meeting some of my local businesses recently. Many of them could benefit from the £59 million generated by the Culture Secretary’s recent announcement, but I am deeply concerned that the Welsh Government could stick to form and only channel that money towards Cardiff-based tourist and culture attractions. Will my right hon. Friend reassure me that he will do all he can to ensure that mid-Wales will see the benefit of that money, which is, after all, mid-Wales’s money?
Of course I can offer that commitment, but the commitment is to urge the Welsh Government to make those important decisions for the whole of Wales. Having had the pleasure of meeting some of my hon. Friend’s industries the other day, I know that, in her own area, critical events such as the Royal Welsh Show are hugely culturally important, and it is absolutely right that the Welsh Government should look at the whole of Wales, and not be tempted into just supporting a few well-known industries around their favoured patch.
Covid-19: Economic Recovery
The Government’s support to business —the £350 billion package—is helping to limit the long-term damage to the economy, and my Department will continue to work with others in Whitehall and the Welsh Government to drive forward that economic recovery. As the Prime Minister said last week, we must “build, build, build” to ensure jobs and growth as we continue to ease lockdown.
Wales desperately needs new projects to deliver growth and better quality work, so may I ask my hon. Friend if he will look at the proposals coming from the joint venture based in Pembrokeshire between Total and Simply Blue Energy for deploying floating offshore wind technology in the Celtic sea? I also ask him to use his office to ensure that Treasury and BEIS stay fully involved, because it is a serious project that is worth backing.
I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend. Floating offshore wind is a hugely exciting technology. I would be happy to meet those companies. Our commitment to offshore wind is demonstrated by the £28 million, which we, along with the Welsh Government, have invested in the Pembroke Dock marine project.
Recognising the severity of the economic damage of covid-19 and also the importance of swift responses from the Government, will the Minister consider proposals made by the Wales Governance Centre recently that both the annual drawdown limit from the Welsh reserve and the cap on Welsh Government borrowing should be
“very significantly relaxed—or removed?”
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that my right hon. Friend has already signed off about an extra £800 million for the Welsh Government and if he can wait in his seat for a little while longer, there may be more good news to come.
Economic recovery in north Wales will be made all the harder by the devastating news that Airbus in Broughton is to shed 1,435 jobs. I know the UK Government are already supporting the UK aerospace industry significantly, but can the Minister confirm what further the Government can do to assist Airbus?
I can confirm that when I and my right hon. Friend spoke to the leaders of Airbus last week, they were very grateful to the UK Government and said that the UK Government had been one of the most supportive Governments in the world, which is why, no doubt, the numbers of jobs being lost in the United Kingdom is far fewer than in other European Union countries. Airbus has benefited from around £5 billion of UK Government support, and I am absolutely certain that the Government will want to continue to support the aerospace sector.
UK-EU Trade Negotiations
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I discussed our future relationship with the EU as part of multiple engagements with the Welsh Government. We will continue to work and listen closely to the Welsh Government throughout the trade deal negotiations. It is, of course, a reserved matter, but we always listen carefully to what the Welsh Government have to say.
Listen, but probably don’t do anything, Mr Speaker. Michel Barnier told our Select Committee that the EU will introduce full border checks for the UK from 1 January regardless of the UK’s position. Given that exports to the EU from Wales account for 60% of Welsh exports, this will cause huge disruption. Has the Minister secured any additional support for Welsh exporters, or is it Brexit at all costs and who cares about the Welsh exporters?
Ensuring that Welsh exports— and, indeed, those from Scotland and all other parts of the United Kingdom—are able to be traded freely across the world, including with our former partners in the European Union, is a top priority for the Government. Of course, the hon. Gentleman appears to be asking for some sort of extension to the current deal that we have. He had the opportunity to do that on three occasions last year. I voted on every occasion for a deal that would have given a permanent extension; his party voted against it.
A recent survey by the Office for National Statistics has found that 46% of Welsh businesses have less than six months in cash reserves—the highest percentage among the UK nations. Without additional support, the looming threat of no deal in less than six months could be the final blow for many businesses. How will the Secretary of State explain to businesses that his Government actively decided to build additional barriers by ruling out an extension when they were already struggling?
I have to remind the hon. Lady once again that SNP Members had the opportunity to vote for the whole of the United Kingdom to remain in a semi-permanent customs union until a deal had been struck. They decided to vote against it, taking a gamble that they could destroy Brexit completely. They lost the gamble, and it is far too late now for them to ask for their stake back. We are leaving the European Union at the end of this year, as we promised to do in our manifesto.
Over the years, the Erasmus scheme has benefited many young people in Newport West. The Welsh Labour Government have repeatedly requested that Wales should be able to participate in programmes such as Erasmus, even if the Conservatives in England stop England doing so. Can the Minister confirm whether this important request from a devolved Government has been relayed by the UK negotiators, and if not, why not?
I have to declare a slight personal interest, because my wife was on an Erasmus scheme when I met her as a student some 20 or so years ago. Of course, at that time she was a citizen of a country that was not then in the European Union. So I can absolutely assure the hon. Lady that, whatever the future of Erasmus, I and my colleagues are determined to enable young people to be able to travel and study not just in the European Union, but outside the European Union.
Covid-19: Employment Levels
I have regular discussions with the Welsh Government on the effect of their lockdown restrictions on levels of employment in Wales. This Government are continuing to provide unprecedented support to businesses and employees in Wales, and as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales has already said, now is the time to look to reopen Wales and keep people in their jobs.
I am grateful for that answer. The Minister will know that the rules on pubs and restaurants operating in Wales are currently more restrictive than those in England. Can I urge him to say to his constituents that, at least for the time being, if they want to attend pubs and restaurants safely, they are very welcome in the Forest of Dean to safeguard jobs and livelihoods?
In passing, I understand the First Minister is a great fan of cheese, in which case I can recommend Stinking Bishop from Dymock in my constituency, which Claudia Winkleman no less has christened the King of Cheese.
My right hon. Friend and I agree on many things, but I might beg to differ over whether tourists should come to the Forest of Dean or to Wales. I want them to be welcomed in Wales, and I look forward to the Welsh Government reopening the tourism industry in Wales as quickly as possible to save the 160,000 jobs that depend on it.
Covid-19: Welsh Businesses
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has regular discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on support for Welsh businesses. The hon. Lady will no doubt be aware that we have put forward a £350 billion scheme to support businesses and jobs across the United Kingdom, and much of that will go to Wales.
Will the Minister join me in welcoming the Welsh Government’s economic contract, which means that any business that receives financial support must demonstrate its commitment to growth, fair work, employee health and skills, and reducing its carbon footprint?
I hope the hon. Lady and everyone in this House will join me in congratulating the United Kingdom Government on bringing forward a furlough scheme that has protected 300,000 jobs in Wales and a self-employment scheme that has protected 100,000 jobs. In addition, we have had bounce back loans, the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme and the coronavirus large business interruption loan scheme. Last week, we protected another 800 jobs—
Come on, Minister. You have got to help me get through the questions.
I welcome some of the wartime-socialism policies of this Government, based on Gordon Brown’s rescue packages under the last Labour Government, which were then cruelly undermined by the Tory Government who followed. But there is room for more fiscal measures, including perhaps looking at VAT on events as a way of trying to stimulate that industry. When the Chancellor sits down next to him, will the Minister whisper in his ear and tell him to do that?
I am happy to accept the hon. Gentleman’s support for Conservative party policies, and if he can just restrain himself for another half hour or so, he might well discover that there is yet more good news for businesses and individuals in Wales. Diolch yn fawr.
I certainly empathise with the victims of recent flooding, especially as many of the same areas were affected more recently. Flood defence is a devolved matter. However, we have made available £16 million to the Welsh Government through the Barnett formula, as a result of flood defences in England.
The unprecedented flooding this year disproportionately affected Welsh communities, including my constituency of Cynon Valley. The Government have now acknowledged the flooding problems caused and indicated that UK Government support for Welsh communities will come from UK reserve. However, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Gerald Jones), the Government informed the House on 15 June that the support would be subject to the Barnett formula. Will the Secretary of State confirm that UK Government funding for flooding in Wales will come from the UK reserve in line with the ethos of support and solidarity central to our Union and that it will not be subject to the Barnett formula? Will he also clarify the amount that will be—
Beth, come on. Secretary of State.
Mr Speaker, thank you. In the interests of brevity, may I inform the hon. Lady that discussions are ongoing on this subject and she will be hearing more from the relevant bodies in the near future?
The Prime Minister was asked—
This morning, I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in this House, I shall have further such meetings later today.
I am shocked and angered at workers in UK clothing factories such as Boohoo being paid a mere £3.50 an hour and being forced to work in totally unacceptable conditions. In the 21st century, there must be no room for exploitation and modern slavery. We must call time on fast fashion for the sake of people and our planet, so my question is simple: what will the Prime Minister do about it?
First, it is this Conservative Government who set out laws against modern slavery. It is this Conservative Government who massively increased the living wage—not only instituted the living wage, but massively increased it. We hoped that it would be the Labour mayor of Leicester who would stand up for the interests of the workforce in his community. That is what we will do.
We are heading to the shadows of Lichfield cathedral with Michael Fabricant.
It is not just the 800-year-old Lichfield cathedral that we have; we also have the beautiful leafy lanes, wonderful restaurants and bars. But I will tell you what we also have: the Lichfield Garrick, which is a major theatre in the area, and The Hub at St Mary’s. This is what I would like to know: I welcome the £1.7 billion grant that is being given to support our theatres and performing artists, but are we going to see any of it at all outside the west end, and here in Lichfield?
I thank my hon. Friend. I can tell him that Lichfield has been at the centre of our cultural life since Dr Johnson and David Garrick made their famous walk and ride from Lichfield to London in the 18th century, and it will continue to be so. We are working closely with Arts Council England to support and develop the projects that I know are so dear to his heart.
On Monday, when asked why care home deaths had been so high, the Prime Minister said that
“too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have.”
That has caused huge offence to frontline care workers. It has now been 48 hours. Will the Prime Minister apologise to care workers?
The last thing I wanted to do was to blame careworkers for what has happened, or for any of them to think that I was blaming them, because they have worked incredibly hard throughout this crisis, looking after some of the most vulnerable people in our country and doing an outstanding job, and as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, tragically, 257 of them have lost their lives. When it comes to taking blame, I take full responsibility for what has happened. But the one thing that nobody knew early on during this pandemic was that the virus was being passed asymptomatically from person to person in the way that it is, and that is why the guidance and the procedures changed. It is thanks to the hard work of careworkers that we have now got incidents and outbreaks down in our care homes to the lowest level since the crisis began. That is thanks to our careworkers and I pay tribute to them.
That is not an apology, and it just will not wash. The Prime Minister said that
“too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have”.
It was clear what he was saying. The Prime Minister must understand just how raw this is for many people on the frontline and for those who have lost loved ones. I quote Mark Adams, who runs a social care charity, who spoke yesterday. He said:
“You’ve got 1.6 million social care workers going into work to protect our parents, our grandparents, our children, putting their own health and potentially lives at risk. And then to get the most senior man in the country turning round and blaming them on what has been an absolute travesty of leadership from the Government, I just think it is appalling.”
Those are his words. I ask the Prime Minister again: will he apologise to careworkers? Yes or no?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman keeps saying that I blamed or tried to blame care workers, and that is simply not the case. The reality is that we now know things about the way the coronavirus is passed from person to person without symptoms that we just did not know. That is why we instituted the care home action plan on 15 April. That is why we changed the procedures. Perhaps he did know that it was being transmitted asymptomatically—I did not hear it at the time. Perhaps Captain Hindsight would like to tell us that he knew that it was being transmitted asymptomatically. Of course it was necessary to change our procedures. I want to thank our care workers for what they have done, and this Government will continue to invest massively in our care homes and in our care workers. By the way, it is this Government, as I said just now, that put up the living wage by record amounts, and that is something that we can do directly to help every care worker in the country.
By refusing to apologise, the Prime Minister rubs salt into the wounds of the very people that he stood at his front door and clapped. The Prime Minister and the Health Secretary must be the only people left in the country who think that they put a “protective ring” around care homes. Those on the frontline know that that was not the case. I quote one care home manager from ITN News yesterday. She said this:
“I’m absolutely livid at the fact that he says we didn’t follow the procedures. Because the care assistants, the nurses, everyone in the care home, have worked so hard. And then he’s got the audacity to blame us.”
Those are her words. What would the Prime Minister like to say to that care home manager?
What I would like to say to the lady in question, and indeed to every care home worker in the country, is that this Government appreciate the incredible work that they have done, and we thank them for the incredible work they have done. Let me say further that we will invest in our care homes and we will reform the care home sector. I hope, by the way, that we will do it on the basis of cross-party consensus and get a lasting solution to the problems in our care homes and the difficulties many people face in funding the cost of their old age. That is what we want to do. That is what this Government have pledged to do after 30 years of inaction, and I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will join us in doing it.
I am glad to hear it. I gently point out that his Government have been in power for 10 years, with no plan and no White Paper. Of course we will join in plans for reforming social care, but 10 years have been wasted. The reality is that more than 19,000 care home residents have died from covid-19. It is a far higher number when we include excess deaths. Overall, around one in 20 care home residents are estimated to have died from the virus. One in 20—it is chilling. These are extraordinary numbers, yet the Prime Minister has consistently ducked responsibility for this. Will he accept that it is not care workers who are to blame; it is his Government?
I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman has got the old vice of reading out the pre-prepared question without listening to the answer I have just given. I have made it absolutely clear that this Government take responsibility for everything that we have done throughout this crisis. Of course I pay tribute once again to the work of every care worker in the country and I thank them, but what we have also done is put forward a care home action plan that has helped our care workers and our care home industry to get the incidence of coronavirus right down in every care home in the country to the lowest level, and we are now putting in monthly testing for every resident in our care homes and weekly testing for every care home worker. That is thanks to the fantastic efforts of everybody involved in NHS testing and tracing—and I think, by the way, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should pay tribute to them as well.
The Prime Minister continues to insult those on the frontline by not taking these issues seriously. The Prime Minister must recognise that huge mistakes have been made. Two months ago at PMQs I highlighted the weakness of the early guidance on care homes. The Prime Minister, typically flippant, simply said it was “not true”. There were repeated warnings from the care sector and repeated delays in providing protective equipment —this was not hindsight; they were raised here day in, day out and week in, week out. It was not hindsight; it was real-time for the frontline. It was the same with routine testing. And the decision to discharge 25,000 people to care homes without tests was clearly a mistake. Will the Prime Minister simply accept that his Government were just too slow to act on care homes, full stop?
The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows very well—or he should know very well—that the understanding of the disease has changed dramatically in the months that we have had it. When he looks at the action plan that we brought in to help our care workers, I think he would appreciate the vast amount of work that they have done, the PPE that they have been supplied with and the testing that they have been supplied with. That has helped them to get the incidence of the disease down to record lows, and it has enabled us to get on with our work, as the Government, in getting this country through this epidemic—getting this country back on its feet. That is what this country wants to see. We have stuck to our plan to open up our economy gradually and cautiously; one week he is in favour of it, the next week he is against it. What this country wants to see is a steady, stable approach to getting our country back on its feet. That is what we are delivering.
Finally, to add further insult to injury, there are reports this morning that the Government are to remove free hospital parking for NHS workers in England. The Prime Minister will know that this could cost hundreds of pounds a month for our nurses, our doctors, our carers and our support staff. We owe our NHS workers so much. We all clap for them; we should be rewarding them, not making it more expensive to go to work. The Prime Minister must know that this is wrong; will he reconsider and rule it out?
The hospital car parks are free for NHS staff for this pandemic—they are free now—and we are going to get on with our manifesto commitment to make them free for patients who need them as well. The House will know that that was never the case under the Labour Government—neither for staff nor for patients. May I respectfully suggest that the right hon. and learned Gentleman takes his latest bandwagon and parks it free somewhere else? One week he is backing us; the next week he is not. One week he is in favour of a tax on wealth and tax on homes; the next week he tries to tiptoe away from it. We know how it works: he takes one brief one week, one brief the next. He is consistent only in his opportunism, whereas we get on with our agenda: build, build, build for jobs, jobs, jobs. The House will hear more about that shortly.
I do indeed remember that letter, and I know that the thoughts and sympathies of the whole House will be with Alan and his family. I would like to join Tommy, Shay, Kelly and indeed my hon. Friend in thanking all hospices for the incredible work that they do.
I am sure that you, Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister and indeed the whole House will want to join me in marking Srebrenica memorial day, which takes place this Saturday, for the first time happening online. We should never forget the terrible genocide that took place 25 years ago. May I associate myself with the concerns about Tory hospital parking charges? The Scottish National party Government abolished them in Scotland 12 years ago, and I urge the Tory Government to do the same, so that NHS workers and patients will not be penalised.
Some 3.8 million people across the United Kingdom could face unemployment when the furlough scheme ends. The job retention scheme has been a lifeline to millions; yet we could see progress unravel as the scheme ends. Millions of people could find themselves out of work, struggling to pay bills and to put food on the table. Will the Prime Minister commit today to extending the furlough scheme? People must not lose their jobs because the Tories refused to act.
I think that most people looking at what has happened in the UK over the last three or four months around the world have been overwhelmingly impressed by the way that we, as a Government, have put our arms around people, with £164 billion invested in jobs, in incomes and in supporting people. It has been a massive effort. I know that a lot of people in this House will agree with me that we cannot go on forever with a furlough scheme that keeps employees in suspended animation in the way that it does. We need to get our economy moving again. That is what I think the people of this country want to see, in a sustainable and cautious way.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is constantly saying this, but I would just remind him that the reason the job retention scheme—the furlough scheme—has worked is because of the power and the efficiency of the UK Treasury. It is the UK Government that have funded the furlough scheme and £4.8 billion in Barnett consequentials to Scotland alone. I am sure that he does not hesitate to remind his colleagues of that.
Of course, it is about the future, and it is about making sure that people can be protected. Just this week, we have seen Spain look to extend its furlough scheme into 2021. Research has shown that prematurely ending the job retention scheme risks higher unemployment and weaker productivity, with a potential loss of up to £50 billion to GDP. The Resolution Foundation is calling for £3 billion to £5 billion to be spent on extending furlough payments for the hardest-hit sectors, and the TUC is warning of the effect that ending the furlough scheme early will have on people who are shielding and in difficulties. This is about not throwing away the benefits that we have accrued. The Prime Minister seems intent on sinking the lifeboat that has been keeping so many people afloat. If the Prime Minister will not extend the furlough scheme, will he give Scotland the powers so that we can do it ourselves?
I think I have answered the right hon. Gentleman’s question already. I believe it is absolutely essential that we invest in our people and protect them from the effects of this epidemic, as we have done at huge expenditure, quite rightly, but it is also essential that we get the economy moving, including in Scotland. I hope that he supports that objective as well.
Absolutely right. I have been amazed to hear that Labour is proposing to bring forward a wealth tax—a tax on homes. New leader, same old Labour policies—exactly what this country does not need. What we need is investment in people and investment in their wages, increasing the living wage and taking this country forward. They want to tax, tax, tax; we want jobs, jobs, jobs.
Given the devastating impact of Brexit on my constituency and the decades of under-investment and neglect by successive British Governments, will the Prime Minister agree to work with the Northern Ireland Executive to ensure that a freeport area is developed in Derry to try to address the long-term economic imbalance? Will he agree to meet me and a delegation from the city to progress this project?
I note the paradox that the hon. Gentleman wants a freeport in Londonderry/Derry, which is something that can only be achieved by Brexit, by the way. I am more than happy to study the plans he proposes. We will see what we can do to take them forward.
Absolutely. We want young people to have the self-confidence brought by the experience of work, to keep learning on the job and to get the jobs that they need. If my hon. Friend waits just a few minutes, he will hear rather more from my right hon. Friend the Chancellor about that very matter.
There are, in fact, 12,000 people who have taken advantage of the furlough scheme in the hon. Lady’s constituency. They are getting 80% of their income up to £2,500 a month. It is a fantastic, massive scheme. In addition, for those she rightly identifies who have had difficulties accessing furlough, we have massively increased universal credit, which is up by £1,040 for families across the country. That is in addition to the panoply of other loans and grants we have made.
I thank my hon. Friend for an apposite question, because the Health Secretary has committed not just to building 40 new hospitals, but to visiting Doncaster very shortly to discuss investment in healthcare there.
The hon. Lady raises a very important issue. The aviation industry has been very hard hit. We are supporting the sector in all kinds of ways, not just by supporting employees, but through the time-to-pay scheme and loans from the Bank of England and the Government to aviation. Of course, we are supporting local councils as well with billions of pounds—£3.2 billion. The most important thing is to get a medium and long-term solution that enables airlines to start flying again, so that Luton council can get the revenue it needs. I perfectly understand and support the points she makes.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for bringing that attractive idea to my attention. I know that several projects are being considered along the Cumbrian coast. I would advise him, first, to get in touch with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to see what he can do to take it forward, and I will give what support I can.
I think we should have absolutely zero tolerance for violence or aggression towards people who work in shops, just as we have zero tolerance for people who are aggressive towards those who work in our public services, and we will do everything we can to ensure that that is the case.
My hon. Friend raises a very important point. As he knows, on 10 May we set out our plan for cautiously getting our economy open again, and we will be saying more later this week about the next steps and the timetable we hope to follow.
I thank the hon. Gentleman and renew the points I made earlier and the tributes I pay to care home workers. The particular case he raises is important and troubling, so if he would be kind enough to write to me with details, setting out exactly what happened, I would be very happy to reply.
We have seen the most amazing upsurge in community spirit in this country, with millions of people coming together to support their neighbours. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to sustain this community spirit into the future, which means supporting the social infrastructure of local places, such as libraries, youth clubs and community businesses, and it means Whitehall giving away power, so that, finally, local communities can take back control?
I thank my hon. Friend for everything he has done to champion the voluntary sector and community spirit over many years. I have followed his campaigns with interest and with support. I think there is now an opportunity to build on the way the nation came together during the covid crisis and to deliver even more of the kind of projects that he wants. We will certainly be putting our support behind those types of community initiatives.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady. She is right to draw attention to one of the most remarkable features of the covid crisis, which was the way that the country and the Government were able to help thousands and thousands of homeless people to find accommodation. In other countries, where they were less fortunate, we saw serious epidemics among the homeless. Thankfully, we have so far avoided that, and we are taking forward plans with Dame Louise Casey and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to ensure that the 15,000 do not just come back on to the streets. We will do everything we can to stamp out homelessness in this country.
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn serves more than 300,000 people across Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. On the 40th anniversary of a hospital only built to last 30 years, does my right hon. Friend agree that the dedication shown by staff in responding to coronavirus deserves to be recognised by including the Queen Elizabeth in our new hospital building programme?
Of course, this Government were elected to build 40 new hospitals, and that is what we are going to do. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care will be setting out the list, but I can also tell my hon. Friend that the Queen Elizabeth Hospital was awarded £9 million in October for urgent upgrades to protect vital frontline care. I am sure he will understand that further, long-term solutions are now under active consideration.
My hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) behind me says from a sedentary position, “What has the right hon. Gentleman got against Poland?” We will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in this country. We will actively buy British. We will ensure that contracts go to great British companies, but what we will not do is turn our faces against the notion of international free trade and the market, which has brought colossal wealth to the people of this country. Those are the politics and the economics of the madhouse.
To avoid drama later, we need to complete the process of getting Brexit done in the next few months. Will my right hon. Friend therefore please confirm for the benefit of everyone listening that nothing in the Northern Ireland protocol will be allowed to stop the United Kingdom charging our own tariffs for the whole United Kingdom from 1 January 2021?
Yes. Not a sausage, not a jot and not a tittle of the Northern Irish protocol will provide any such impediment to the unfettered access of goods and services between all parts of the UK.
I have seldom met anybody who was more boosterish for the future of Wales than the Secretary of State for Wales, and that is because this Government are absolutely committed to levelling up throughout the whole UK—in Wales and everywhere—with infrastructure and investment in education and in technology. We will do the things, by the way, that the Welsh Labour Government have failed to do, such as unblocking the Brynglas tunnels and allowing that proper M4 bypass, which has long been needed. We will provide the Vicks inhaler to the nostrils of the Welsh dragon and get Wales moving.
Are you trying to put the fire out of the dragon, Prime Minister?
In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I suspend the House for three minutes.
I stood here in March saying I knew people were worried, and I know they are worried still. We have taken decisive action to protect our economy, but people are anxious about losing their job and about unemployment rising. We are not just going to accept that. People need to know that we will do all we can to give everyone the opportunity of good and secure work. People need to know that although hardship lies ahead, no one will be left without hope. So today, we act with a plan for jobs. Our plan has a clear goal: to protect, support and create jobs. It will give businesses the confidence to retain and hire, to create jobs in every part of our country, to give young people a better start and to give people everywhere the opportunity of a fresh start. Where problems emerge, we will confront them. Where support is justified, we will provide it. Where challenges arise, we will overcome them. We entered this crisis unencumbered by dogma and we continue in that spirit, driven always by the simple desire to do what is right.
Before I turn to our plan for jobs, let me first outline the nature of the challenge. Our economic response to coronavirus is moving through three phases. In the first phase, beginning in March, the Government announced social distancing measures and ordered businesses to close, halting the spread of the disease. We put in place one of the largest and most comprehensive economic responses in the world. Our £160 billion plan protects people’s jobs, incomes and businesses. We supported more than 11 million people and jobs through the job retention and self-employment schemes, alongside billions of pounds for the most vulnerable. We supported over 1 million businesses to protect jobs through tax cuts, tax deferrals, direct cash grants and over 1 million Government-backed loans. And we supported public services, with new funding for the NHS, schools, public transport and local authorities. In total, we have now provided £49 billion to support public services since this crisis began.
Analysis I am publishing today shows our interventions significantly protected people’s incomes, with the least well off in society supported the most, and this crisis has highlighted the special bond which holds our country together. Millions of people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been protected by the UK Government’s economic interventions, and they will be supported by today’s plan for jobs. No nationalist can ignore the undeniable truth: this help has only been possible because we are a United Kingdom.
Four months on, as we carefully reopen our economy, we are entering the second phase of our economic response. Despite the extraordinary support we have already provided, we face profound economic challenges. World economic activity has slowed, with the International Monetary Fund expecting the deepest global recession since records began. Household consumption—the biggest component of our economy—has fallen steeply. Businesses have stopped trading and stopped hiring. Taken together, in just two months our economy contracted by 25%, the same amount that it grew by in the previous 18 years. And the independent Office for Budget Responsibility and Bank of England are both projecting significant job losses, the most urgent challenge we now face. I want every person in this House and in the country to know that I will never accept unemployment as an unavoidable outcome. We have not done everything we have so far just to step back now and say, “Job done.” In truth, the job has only just begun.
If the first phase of our economic response was about protection and the second phase—the phase we are addressing today—is about jobs, there will come a third phase, where we will rebuild. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has set out our vision to level up, unite the country, spread opportunity, and repair and heal the wounds exposed through this crisis. I can tell the House that we will produce a Budget and spending review in the autumn.
And we will deal, too, with the challenges facing our public finances. Over the medium term, we must, and we will, put our public finances back on a sustainable footing. In other words, our plan for jobs will not be the last action, but is merely the next, in our fight to recover and rebuild after coronavirus.
Let me now turn to the detail of our plan for jobs. Central to our economic response has been the jobs retention scheme. Furlough has been a lifeline for millions, supporting people and businesses to protect jobs, but it cannot, and should not, go on forever. I know that when furlough ends it will be a difficult moment. I am also sure that if I say the scheme must end in October, critics will say it should end in November. If I say it should end in November, critics will just say December. But the truth is, calling for endless extensions to the furlough is just as irresponsible as it would have been, back in June, to end the scheme overnight.
We have to be honest: leaving the furlough scheme open forever gives people false hope that it will always be possible to return to the jobs they had before. The longer people are on furlough, the more likely it is that their skills will fade, and they will find it harder to get new opportunities. It is in no one’s long-term interests for the scheme to continue forever, least of all those trapped in a job that can exist only because of Government subsidy. So the furlough will wind down, flexibly and gradually, supporting businesses and people through to October.
While we cannot protect every job, one of the most important things we can do to prevent unemployment is to get as many people as possible from furlough back to their jobs. So, today, we are introducing a new policy to reward and incentivise employers who successfully bring furloughed staff back—a new jobs retention bonus.
If you are an employer and you bring back someone who was furloughed, and you continuously employ them through to January, we will pay you a £1,000 bonus per employee. It is vital that people are not just returning for the sake of it; they need to be doing decent work. For businesses to get the bonus, the employee must be paid at least £520, on average, in each month from November to January, the equivalent of the lower earnings limit in national insurance.
The House should understand the significance of this policy. We will pay the bonus for all furloughed employees. So if employers bring back all 9 million people who have been furloughed, that would be a £9 billion policy to retain people in work. Our message to business is clear: if you stand by your workers, we will stand by you.
The furlough was the right policy to support people through the first phase of this crisis, but now, in this new phase, we need to evolve our approach. Today, I want to set out for the House a new three-point plan for jobs. We need to: first, support people to find jobs; secondly, create jobs; and, thirdly, protect jobs.
Let me start with supporting jobs, in particular the help we want to provide for those who will be hardest hit by this crisis: younger people. Over 700,000 people are leaving education this year. Many more are just starting out in their careers. Coronavirus has hit them hard—under-25s are two and a half times as likely to work in a sector that has been closed.
We cannot lose that generation, so today I am announcing the kick-start scheme, a new programme to give hundreds of thousands of young people in every region and every nation of Britain the best possible chance of getting on and getting a job. The kick-start scheme will pay employers directly to create new jobs for any 16 to 24-year-old at risk of long-term unemployment. These will be new jobs, with the funding conditional on the firm proving that the jobs are additional. These will be decent jobs, with a minimum of 25 hours per week paid at least the national minimum wage, and they will be good-quality jobs, with employers providing kick-starters with training and support to find a permanent job.
If employers meet those conditions, we will pay young people’s wages for six months, plus an amount to cover overheads. That means, for a 24-year-old the grant will be around £6,500. Employers can apply to be part of the scheme from next month, with the first kick-starters in their new jobs this autumn. I urge every employer, big or small, national or local, to hire as many kick-starters as possible. Today, I am making available an initial £2 billion, enough to fund hundreds of thousands of jobs, and I commit: there will be no cap on the number of places available.
We can do more for young people. Traineeships are a proven scheme to get young people ready for work, and we know they work, so for the first time ever we will pay employers £1,000 to take on new trainees, with triple the number of places. What is more, to help 18 to 19-year-olds leaving school or college to find work in high-demand sectors, such as engineering, construction and social care, we will provide £100 million to create more places on level 2 and 3 courses.
The evidence says that careers advice works, too, so we will fund it, with enough new careers advisers to support over a quarter of a million more people. We will also expand our universal skills offer. Sector-based work academies provide training, work placements and a guaranteed job interview in high-demand sectors, and the evidence shows they work, so we will expand them, by tripling the number of places.
We know that apprenticeships work, too, with 91% of apprentices staying in work or doing further training afterwards, so for the next six months we will pay employers to create new apprenticeships. We will pay businesses to hire young apprentices, with a new payment of £2,000 per apprentice, and introduce a brand new bonus for businesses to hire apprentices aged 25 and over, with a payment of £1,500. I thank my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary for his support and commitment in developing these measures.
We know that the longer someone is out of work, the harder it is for them to return. Millions of people are moving on to universal credit and need urgent support to get back to work, so we are doubling the number of work coaches in jobcentres, increasing the flexible support fund, extending the rapid response service, expanding the work and health programme, and developing a new scheme to support the long-term unemployed. The academic and economic evidence tells us these are among the most effective things we can do.
For that reason, I am investing an extra £1.2 billion in the Department for Work and Pensions to support millions of people back to work, and I am grateful for everything my right hon. Friend the Work and Pensions Secretary and her incredible team have done. I am talking about £1 billion of support for the unemployed, more money for skills, traineeships, apprenticeships, and a new, good-quality job for hundreds of thousands of new kick-starters. That is the first part of our plan for jobs.
The second part of our plan is to support job creation, and that begins with historic investment in infrastructure to create jobs in every region and nation of the UK. At the Budget, I announced £88 billion of capital funding this year, and last week the Prime Minister announced our plans to accelerate £5 billion of additional investment projects. We are doubling down on our ambition to level up, with better roads, better schools, better hospitals and better high streets, creating jobs in all four corners of the country.
As well as investing in infrastructure, we want to create green jobs. This will be a green recovery, with concern for our environment at its heart, and as part of that, I am announcing today a new £2 billion green homes grant. From September, homeowners and landlords will be able to apply for vouchers to make their homes more energy efficient and create local jobs. The grants will cover at least two thirds of the cost—up to £5,000 per household—and for low-income households we will go even further, with vouchers covering the full cost, up to £10,000.
On top of the £2 billion voucher scheme, I am releasing £1 billion of funding to improve the energy efficiency of public sector buildings, alongside a £50 million fund to pilot the right approach to decarbonise social housing. Taken together, we expect these measures to make more than 650,000 homes more energy efficient; to save households up to £300 a year on their bills; to cut carbon by more than half a megatonne per year—equivalent to taking 270,000 cars off the road; and, most importantly right now, to support around 140,000 green jobs. A £3 billion green jobs plan to save money, cut carbon and create jobs.
One of the most important sectors for job creation is housing. The construction sector adds £39 billion a year to the UK economy. House building alone supports nearly three quarters of a million jobs, with millions more relying on the availability of housing to find work. But property transactions fell by 50% in May. House prices have fallen for the first time in eight years and uncertainty abounds in the market—a market we need to be thriving. We need people feeling confident—confident to buy, sell, renovate, move and improve. That will drive growth. That will create jobs. So to catalyse the housing market and boost confidence, I have decided today to cut stamp duty.
Right now, there is no stamp duty on transactions below £125,000. Today, I am increasing the threshold to half a million pounds. This will be a temporary cut running until 31 March next year, and, as is always the case, these changes to stamp duty will take effect immediately. The average stamp duty bill will fall by £4,500 and nearly nine out of 10 people buying a main home this year will pay no stamp duty at all. Stamp duty cuts, a £5,000 green homes grant and tens of billions of pounds of new capital projects—we are creating jobs: the second part of our plan for jobs.
The final part of our plan will protect jobs that already exist by helping some of our highest-employing but hardest-hit sectors: hospitality and tourism. Our economy relies on consumption, especially social consumption: the pubs, cafés, restaurants, hotels and B&Bs that bring life to our villages, towns and cities. Taken together, these sectors employ over 2 million people—disproportionately younger, women and people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. Many rural and coastal communities rely on these industries. Some 80% of hospitality firms temporarily stopped trading in April and 1.4 million workers have been furloughed—the highest proportions of any sector. So the best jobs programme we can do is to restart these sectors and get our pubs, restaurants, cafés and B&Bs bustling again.
I know people are cautious about going out, but we would not have lifted the restrictions if we did not think we could do so safely. I have seen in the last few weeks how hard businesses are working to make their premises safe, and if we follow the guidance and respect what they ask us to do, we can all enjoy summer safely. In turn, we need to give these businesses the confidence to know that if they open up, invest in making their premises safe and protect jobs, demand will be there—and be there quickly. So today, I am announcing two new measures to get these sectors moving and protect jobs.
First, at the moment, VAT on hospitality and tourism is charged at 20%, so I have decided, for the next six months, to cut VAT on food, accommodation and attractions. Eat-in or hot takeaway food from restaurants, cafés and pubs; accommodation in hotels, B&Bs, campsites and caravan sites; attractions like cinemas, theme parks and zoos—all these and more will see VAT reduced, from next Wednesday until 12 January, from 20% to 5%. This is a £4 billion catalyst for the hospitality and tourism sectors, benefiting over 150,000 businesses and consumers everywhere—all helping to protect 2.4 million jobs.
But we will go further. The final measure I am announcing today has never been tried in the UK before. This moment is unique. We need to be creative. So, to get customers back into restaurants, cafés and pubs and protect the 1.8 million people who work in them, I can announce today that, for the month of August, we will give everyone in the country an eat-out-to-help-out discount. Meals eaten at any participating business, Monday to Wednesday, will be 50% off, up to a maximum discount of £10 per head for everyone, including children. Businesses will need to register and can do so through a simple website, open next Monday. Each week in August, businesses can then claim the money back, with the funds in their bank account within five working days. Some 1.8 million people work in this industry. They need our support, and with this measure, we can all eat out to help out. A VAT cut to 5% and a first-of-its-kind Government-backed discount for all—that is the third part of our plan for jobs.
A £1,000 jobs retention bonus; new, high-quality jobs for hundreds of thousands of young kick-starters; £1 billion to double the number of work coaches and support the unemployed; more apprenticeships, more traineeships and more skills funding; billions of pounds for new job creation projects across the country; a £3 billion plan to support 140,000 green jobs; and, in this vital period, as we get going again, VAT cut, stamp duty cut and meals out cut—all part of our plan for jobs worth up to £30 billion.
Governments, much less people, rarely get to choose the moments that define them. What choice there is comes in how we respond. For me, this has never just been a question of economics, but of values. I believe in the nobility of work. I believe in the inspiring power of opportunity. I believe in the British people’s fortitude and endurance. And it is that value, endurance, more than any other that we need to embody now—a patience to live with the uncertainty of the moment and to find that new balance between safety and normality. We will not be defined by this crisis but by our response to it. It is an unambiguous choice to make this moment meaningful for our country in a way that transcends the frustration and loss of recent months. It is a plan to turn our national recovery into millions of stories of personal renewal. It is our plan for jobs, and I commend it to this House.
Before I call the shadow Chancellor, I inform Members that at the end of questions on this statement, I will call the Chancellor of the Exchequer to move a provisional collection of taxes resolution. Copies of the resolution are available in the Vote Office.
Our country has been through a great deal over these past few months. Hundreds of thousands have wrestled with this terrible disease. For many months, people have had to go without being able to embrace their loved ones or even to say goodbye. Tens of thousands have died. Our NHS, social care and other workers had made extraordinary sacrifices. We owe them so much.
The Government have had to take big decisions, too—we acknowledge that—but today should have been the day when our Government chose to build a bridge between what has been done so far and what needs to be done to get our economy moving again. It should have been the day when the millions of British people worried about their jobs and future prospects had a load taken off their shoulders. It should have been the day when we got the UK economy firing again. Today, Britain should have had a back-to-work Budget; but instead we got this summer statement, with many of the big decisions put off until later, as those on the Government Benches know full well.
Labour is a constructive Opposition during this time of crisis. We will not criticise for criticism’s sake. But when the Government fall short we will speak up, and the blunt truth is that we have one of the highest death rates in the world and among the deepest economic damage in the industrialised world from coronavirus. So the very first thing the Chancellor must do is prevent additional economic damage due to the slow public health response of his Government.
As we have seen throughout this crisis, the failure to match soaring rhetoric with meaningful action has consequences for people across our country. Despite all their talk, the Government have failed to create a fully functioning test, track and isolate system. That has damaged public confidence and, in turn, harmed consumer demand. Despite all their talk, the Government have failed to produce a clear system for local lockdowns. The lack of timely information sharing has led, as we all know, to the imposition of an additional wide-scale lockdown in Leicester.
The Government’s contracts with outsourcing firms amount to almost £3 billion, but we still have not got test, track and isolate working properly in the UK, as it is in many other countries, and the Government still have not got a grip on the low value and limited scope of sick pay, risking people’s ability to self-isolate. Fear is corrosive. Fear is hurting our economy. The Government have got to get this right.
Of course, we welcome the Government’s announcement today of targeted VAT cuts on hospitality and tourism and of vouchers to be used in restaurants. Local businesses desperately need that support, and so many low and middle-income people in particular really need help right now. That is why we have repeatedly called for social security to better meet their needs and prevent people risking losing their homes. If delivered properly, these measures should help.
But the Chancellor himself said, when interviewed on “The Andrew Marr Show”, that the best the Government can do to boost demand is to give consumers and workers the confidence and psychological security that they can go out to work, to shop and to socialise in safety. So please, Chancellor, work with your colleagues so our public health response catches up with that operating in other countries. The Prime Minister asked, what have I been doing about that? My party has been repeatedly suggesting solutions to the public health problems facing our country, and we need to adopt them in the UK before this crisis becomes even more severe.
Now the Government must act not just to deal with unemployment as a symptom, but also with its cause. Research reported this week in the “Telegraph” indicates that British workers have already been the biggest casualty in the global jobs cuts. It showed that while jobs markets in many other countries have already fully recovered, in Britain it could take comparatively much, much longer for vacancy levels to return to normal. The levels of unemployment that this country saw in the past were not just an economic waste; they ruined lives. We are seeing the same impacts again—the same devastated high streets and communities robbed of their pride and purpose.
Of course the re-employment bonus announced by the Chancellor is necessary, not least because his Government refused to put conditions on the use of those funds related to employment. But, first, how can he ensure that that money will not just go to those employers who were already planning to bring people back into work and, secondly, what will he do for those firms that lack the cash flow to be able to operate even with that bonus? Related to that, the Chancellor still needs to abandon his one-size-fits-all approach to withdrawing the job retention and self-employed schemes. No one is saying that those schemes should stay as they are indefinitely; the Opposition have never said that, but we have said that the money spent on the job retention scheme must not serve merely to postpone unemployment. The scheme must live up to its name, supporting employment in industries that are viable in the long term. We also need a strategy for the scheme to become more flexible so that it can support those businesses forced to close again because of additional localised lockdowns. There is still time to avoid additional floods of redundancy notices. It is the Government’s duty to help Britain through this and stop employment reaching mass levels again.
We need action to ensure the support needed for key sectors of our economy—for our small and medium-sized enterprises and our manufacturers. While we of course welcome the long-overdue arts and culture package, we still have not heard the Government’s plans for other sectors. Many of us expected to hear them today, but we have not. The Project Birch process has been slow, tortuous and opaque. Large parts of industrial Britain need help to get through this—to keep their employees in jobs and keep their suppliers in jobs. Meanwhile, it appears that there will be no solutions for SMEs who cannot take on additional debt until the autumn. This risks many SMEs going to the wall.
Until now, the Chancellor has described a targeted, sectoral approach as the Treasury “picking winners”, but the necessary public health measures have created losers. As the Chancellor himself said just now, the Government required many businesses to shut down to prevent the spread of this disease. Supporting businesses that are viable in the long run but currently starved of cash flow is not a matter of “picking winners”: it is about protecting our country’s economic capacity for the future. Failure to do so—to make the job retention and self-employed schemes more targeted and focused and to support viable businesses—is driving up unemployment in this country. The claimant count is on course to top 3 million people in June—the highest number since the previous record in 1986. This is the Chancellor’s record, and one that cannot and must not be worsened.
Where unemployment arises as a symptom of economic damage, more must be done to help. Labour repeatedly called for the Government to match the ambitions of Labour’s future jobs fund and Welsh Labour’s Jobs Growth Wales programme, and finally the Government have come forward with a scheme apparently modelled on them—the kick-start scheme. The Conservatives cancelled the future jobs fund, of course, and it has taken almost 10 years for them to catch up. As with their belated adoption of our call for “jobs, jobs, jobs”, perhaps this gives a new meaning to the phrase “Project Speed”. We now need to make sure that the kick-start scheme provides genuinely additional opportunities for young unemployed people. The Government must also recognise the specific challenges faced by older jobseekers, many of whom are becoming unemployed for the first time, and those based in especially hard-hit places. Reimposing sanctions now is punitive and counter- productive when jobseekers need support.
We must be ambitious for the future of our country’s economy. Our ambition should not just be to build our way out of this but to do so in a greener and cleaner way. For this, we need more than the reheated announcements by the Prime Minister last week. Of course the investment announced was welcome, not least because much of it was already committed to by the Government. However, core elements are missing. For example, £50 million to support retrofitting in social homes is just a seventh of what the Conservatives said they would be spending every year. The muddled confusions over stamp duty over the past 48 hours reflect a broader lack of strategy when it comes to house building, particularly for genuinely affordable and social homes. Overall, the UK’s green investment package barely touches the sides of other countries’ commitments. Even with what was announced today, it only equates to just over the value of Germany’s investment in one green technology alone—hydrogen. The Committee on Climate Change has indicated how far behind the UK is in the race to decarbonise. Failure to heed its recommendations is not only damaging to our planet, but it also cuts us out of leading the development of the key technologies of the future. The Conservatives are still refusing to impose conditions on investment to ensure that it contributes to the goal of net zero and that it supports local jobs, uses local firms, leads to sustainable skilled employment in local areas and prevents the use of tax havens and other forms of asset stripping.
If the Chancellor really wants to “build back better”, he must prevent a rerun of the past. From 2010 onwards, we have seen how families’ resilience has been eroded. We entered this crisis with a quarter of families lacking even £100 in savings. In a typical classroom of 30, nine children are growing up in poverty, and our economy is the most regionally unequal in Europe. Our local authorities continue to be cut to the bone, with many standing on the brink of bankruptcy as we speak, and rather than the promise that our NHS and social care services would get whatever they needed this winter—to weather a potential second wave—those words were conspicuously absent from the Chancellor’s speech just now.
Politicians in this House have gone out on our doorsteps to clap key workers, while the lowest paid have struggled to keep a roof over their heads. We must have a new settlement for the future: an end to poverty pay for our social care workers and those who clean our hospitals and deliver our groceries. We want a recognition of the value of the work of those who have been taken for granted for far too long.
There were some initial press reports that the Government were due to announce generalised tax increases or cuts to services this autumn, which were contradicted by the Prime Minister, who rejected whatever had apparently been briefed out by the Treasury—that has happened quite a few times. I say to the Government that, if they do increase taxes during the recovery and cut back on the public services that we all rely on, it will damage demand and inhibit our recovery. Labour is not calling for tax rises. We are calling for growth.
The Tory manifesto committed to no rises in income tax, national insurance or VAT, and therefore it is for the Conservatives to set out how any additional spending will be paid for. It is the Chancellor’s job to ensure that the economy bounces back from this crisis, so that there is money in the coffers to protect the public finances.
Last week, the Chancellor’s colleague, the Prime Minister, tried to claim the mantle of FDR—as we all know. Perhaps now we know why he went for Roosevelt. It is because this week the Prime Minister blamed carers for the failings in the system that his Government had underfunded for the past decades. Now we know why he went for Roosevelt. It is because the last thing that his Government would have wanted was the sign on the desk of Harry Truman, the successor to Roosevelt, which said, “The buck stops here.” If this Government had a sign, it would probably say, “The buck stops anywhere but here”. But they cannot escape their responsibilities: to govern is to choose. It is to choose to finally sort out test, track and isolate, to prevent unnecessary additional unemployment and to build the green jobs of the future. This is a moment when our country needs its Government to help Britain through.
I thank the hon. Lady for that contribution. Throughout this crisis, she and I have spoken and, where possible, I have tried to find common ground for our measures with as broad a coalition as possible, including with members of the Opposition. I do feel that it is necessary, however, to reiterate just a few points. She talked about vulnerable people, but, as I said, the analysis published today shows that our interventions have helped the poorest in our society the most. Those are the values of this Conservative Government. We will make sure that no one is left behind during this time of national crisis, and we will ensure that those who are most vulnerable get the support and protection that they deserve
The hon. Lady also talked about jobs and the difference in different countries’ reactions to the labour market. She is right: our economy is more reliant on consumption than other economies. It is also more reliant on social consumption than other economies. That is why the acute difficulty of social distancing and the shutdowns have affected our economy more than others. That is why, to help protect those 2 million jobs in the 150,000 businesses in those sectors and the people who are, on average, lower paid—women, black and minority ethnic communities, and rural and coastal communities—we have put in place what I believe to be bold and decisive measures to help protect employment in those sectors.
The hon. Lady talked about conditionality on funds that we provided. Here, she has to choose. It cannot be that you can develop significant interventions to provide liquidity and cash support to businesses at scale and speed, while at the same time having an incredibly targeted approach, imposing conditions on individual businesses. You have to choose one or the other. We unashamedly chose the former. The speed of what was happening to our economy and the scale of what was happening demanded an approach that required us to take a broad-brush approach, and that was the way we could get help to as many people as possible as quickly as possible. But where individual businesses come to the taxpayer and require bespoke support, it is right that we impose conditions on those businesses. I have been very clear that that is what I would do and, indeed, that is what we have done. Without going into the details, as that would be inappropriate, such interventions will come with conditions: conditions on executive pay, protecting employment, climate change obligations, how supply chains and small businesses are treated, and obligations around tax. Those are all commitments and conditions that the taxpayer would expect us to make and that is what we have done in the one instance where the support has been provided thus far. It is what we will do for any future support.
The hon. Lady talked about a green recovery. This Government are proud of their record on our environment. She talks about Germany and other countries. When I stood here in March, we outlined one of the most ambitious and far-reaching investment programmes for our environment and tackling net zero from any Government this country has ever seen. Carbon capture and storage, the nature for climate fund, investing to further the support for electric vehicles, new charging stations, tackling air quality, taxes on polluters—those are all measures we have already taken. I am glad that other countries are catching up. We have decarbonised faster than almost every other European country. It is a record that those of us on the Government Benches are proud of.
The measures we have announced today represent some of the most far-reaching measures any country has taken to tackle energy efficiency. They will provide thousands of pounds of grants for homeowners up and down the country to create local jobs and ensure we can reduce carbon emissions from our housing stock, which today account for almost a fifth of all our emissions. The Committee on Climate Change has said we must address that. In our manifesto, we committed to addressing it. Rather than waiting to get started and rather than the five-year plan outlined in our manifesto, we are getting on with it today.
The hon. Lady spoke about furlough. Here again, I make no apology for the fact that we must and should wind down this scheme. I am glad that today the OECD made it clear that it also believes wage support schemes must be carefully wound down in order to get people back to work, protect jobs and return to growth. I see the hon. Lady has moved around on this issue. She said at the end of May that a targeted approach would “pose challenges” and force “hard choices”. I have not heard from the hon. Lady how she would solve those challenges and hard choices, but we remain committed to protecting people in their jobs. We understand that businesses that have had to furlough employees have been through a difficult time, which is why today we outlined a £9 billion policy—the job retention bonus—to support workers and to support businesses who bring those furloughed workers back.
Lastly, the hon. Lady talked about the future jobs fund. I am guided by the evidence. Parts of that scheme did work well and I am not dogmatic—I will do what works—but there are major differences to the kick-starter scheme. The kick-starter scheme will be bigger. It will help more young people. It will be broader, involving the private sector. It will be better value for the taxpayer, ensuring less money is spent on administration fees and more money is in the pockets of young people working.
We have questions from the hon. Lady, We have opinions from the hon. Lady, and last week, we even had tests from the hon. Lady. The one thing we do not have from her is a plan. I closed my statement by saying that this Government were making an unambiguous choice to make this moment meaningful for our country. Now, Labour Members must choose. Do they believe, as we do, that Britain has the energy and power to bounce back? Do they have confidence, as we do, in our incredible public services? Do they believe, as we do, in the enterprising spirit of British business? If they do, then they should do what is right and back our plan for jobs.
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?
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.
I would usually start by thanking the Chancellor for advance sight of his statement, but today I think I might ask for a fresh printer cartridge for the heavily redacted copy, which was effectively useless, that was sent to spokespeople ahead of his statement.
Countries around the world have supported their people in this crisis, and the only UK exceptionalism is in being among the countries where the most people have died. The Chancellor has spent big over the past few months and comes with more proposals today. We support measures such as the job support schemes and encourage the Chancellor to be more ambitious and think to the future in his stimulus plans; we want a comprehensive plan to support the economy, protect jobs and incomes, and build a greener, fairer society.
We have looked to the ambitious stimulus packages of our European neighbours and urge the Chancellor to look at a package of investment with no less than £80 billion of new money, equating to approximately 4% of UK GDP, the equivalent investment to that being made by Germany. That would allow for the level of investment needed to secure jobs not just now, but for the future, because we know that Brexit is coming over the horizon.
The Scottish Parliament currently has a very restricted ability to borrow, under a fiscal framework that was not designed with covid-19 in mind. Kate Forbes, Rebecca Evans and Conor Murphy, the Finance Ministers of all three devolved institutions, have come together to seek urgent devolution of the financial powers in these unprecedented times and to be able to have the flexibility to switch from capital to revenue spending. The Scottish Parliament must have the full range of powers to deliver a tailored response and secure a strong recovery for Scotland, otherwise necessary spending on coronavirus will mean cuts elsewhere and fixed budgets. And will the Chancellor be clear on what these proposals today mean for the block grant adjustment?
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research has said today that UK GDP could be cut by 2.5% if the Chancellor goes ahead and withdraws the job support schemes prematurely. Roz Foyer, general secretary of the Scottish TUC, has called for the continuation of the scheme, noting that hospitality, tourism, aviation, and oil and gas are in particular need of extended support—and there was not a word about oil and gas in the Chancellor’s statement.
Those shielding and with caring responsibilities will also need ongoing support. Coronavirus is not going away, and there is a real risk that with future outbreaks, such as happened in Leicester, the support will not be there when it is needed. I hear what the Chancellor says about encouraging people back to work and about a bonus for employers who do, but for many people it will not be safe to go back to work. At the start of this crisis my inbox was full of correspondence from people worried about the safety of their workplaces, and people should not be forced to go back if it is not safe for them to do so.
Recent Treasury Committee reports and work by Excluded UK highlight the substantial gaps in the coronavirus job retention scheme and the self-employment income support scheme, with between 1 million and 3 million people left with no support whatsoever. People were furious at the suggestion by the Chancellor yesterday that they have had support; they asked me to assure him again today that they have not. The SNP believes that the Chancellor must fill these gaps and extend the furlough and self-employment income support schemes for as long as each of the four nations require that, so that no one is left behind.
A report by the Social Mobility Commission last week warned that UK child poverty is projected to increase to 5.2 million by 2022, with covid-19 adding to this problem. Now is the time to strengthen measures to reverse rising child poverty, including a £20 per week increase in the child element of universal credit and child tax credits. That will help families put food on the table and clothes on children’s backs at a time when many are struggling. These parents are not eating out. Some of these parents are barely eating at all.
The Tories must also scrap the callous two-child cap, re-establish child poverty targets, introduce a real living wage for all ages and roll out an emergency basic payment plan to protect families. We want to see investment in a national debt plan to support businesses, families and individuals who have been struggling. While I am glad to hear that the Chancellor wants to re-employ jobcentre staff, will he reopen the many jobcentres he closed in Glasgow?
We support a temporary reduction in VAT, and we are glad to see the Chancellor coming forward with plans—we have been calling for this since March. He mentioned cinemas. Will live events also see a VAT reduction in their ticket sales? Gigs and theatres would benefit hugely from being able to offer that. All this sits alongside a 2p cut we are calling for to employers’ national insurance contributions, to protect jobs and reduce the cost of hiring staff.
Our bright, talented young people are worth so much more than 25 hours a week on minimum wage, rather than a real living wage, with age discrimination baked in. For many of those young people, it will not be so much a kick-start as a kick in the teeth to be told to go to work for so little money. Those aged between 16 and 24 have bills to pay too, and they deserve fair pay for their work. I note that the Chancellor cited the higher band of pay for a 24-year-old, not the £6.45 an hour for younger people or the £4.55 that 16 and 17-year-olds get—an absolute pittance. There should be a real living wage for all.
If, as has been trailed, this plan is tied to universal credit, can the Chancellor confirm whether sanctions will be applied to those who do not take it up? What will happen to those shielding or with caring responsibilities? What will happen to those not currently on universal credit—will it be open to them? What commitment will he require from employers not to fire older, more expensive staff in favour of people on this scheme? What will happen after six months? What is open to older people to help them continue in employment? Many young people are already employed in sectors where jobs are disappearing right now. Many are already on furlough. Would it not be less disruptive to maintain that link with employers, rather than make them start over?
The voucher scheme that the Chancellor proposes for green plans is, relatively speaking, tinkering when we look at the comprehensive work that the KfW Development Bank in Germany has done to change the whole conversation around green investment. We want to put significant and sustained investment in the future at the heart of these plans and to ensure that Scotland has the widest possible range of powers to tackle covid-19. Only by doing that can we avoid the worst of this storm and protect both businesses and the health and wellbeing of our people.
I thank the hon. Lady for her questions. I will run through them as quickly as I can. She asked about the block grant adjustment. The OBR will do final costings for these policies in the coming week, and once those costings have been done, the block grant will be adjusted as quickly as possible. It should be done based on OBR costings, as is normal for these matters.
The hon. Lady asked about Barnett. I am pleased to tell the House that the sum total of Barnett funding for Scotland as a result of all the interventions through this crisis is now £4.6 billion, which is going to support similar measures in Scotland to the ones we are providing elsewhere.
The hon. Lady asked about the inclusion of different businesses in the VAT cut. For attractions, I refer her to principal VAT directive annex III, paragraph 7, where the existing legislation is drawn. The guidance will be published tomorrow, for SIs to be laid next week and to come into force on Wednesday. That paragraph has the full range covered in our existing legislation.
It is absolutely important that we invest in our future. This is something that matters keenly to both me and the Prime Minister, which is why, in the Budget, we delivered on the Prime Minister’s ambitions to level up in every part of this country with investment plans that tripled the amount of investment in our country from the last four decades. It is a significant commitment of our level of ambition and support for every part of this United Kingdom, building prosperity for the future by having an investment revolution. The hon. Lady can be reassured that we remain committed to that goal.
The hon. Lady also asked about support for those who are older. Not quite for the first time, although the only other time that we did it was very time-limited, we are introducing a payment to businesses to take on apprentices over the age of 25—£1,500 per apprentice taken on—for the simple reason that while most people think of apprentices as young people, some 44% or so of new apprentice starts are actually over the age of 25. It is important that we provide that financial incentive at this time of economic distress, to try to create as many new apprenticeships as possible, including for those who are older, who will of course also benefit from all the other universal skills interventions that my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and the Secretary of State for Education will take forward.
More broadly, the measures that I announced today—the jobs retention bonus for furloughed employees, the kick-start scheme, the VAT cut and the “eat out to help out” discount—are all incredibly significant interventions and all of them benefit the entire United Kingdom. It is important to note, as I have heard from the hon. Lady and other members of her party, how important tourism is to the Scottish economy—something that my Scottish colleagues have made clear to me. Rural communities and coastal communities especially play a disproportionately important part in the Scottish economy. The “eat out to help out” measure and the VAT reduction for these economies will be absolutely vital in driving Scotland’s growth going forward. That is a reminder to everyone that we are stronger together, one United Kingdom.
I welcome the positive approach that the Chancellor and the Government are taking. Were we to ask them, I think many MPs who will not be able to ask a question today would share my view that we should be green, red and blue: green by having economically and environmentally sustainable ways of getting the economy to come back; red by watching out for things that we should not be doing; and blue by being colour blind and trying to make sure that whether they are on the coast, in the countryside or in the cities, people get opportunities.
I hope that the Chancellor will pay attention to what the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) said for the SNP about those excluded. The new all-party group is very concerned about those who have not been caught up by some of the support schemes. They need help and I hope that the Chancellor will find some way of bringing that forward as well.
Let me give just one example of the red—of what not to do. I am putting down an early-day motion—a prayer against Statutory Instrument 2020 No. 632, which goes under the name of the Town and Country Planning (Permitted Development and Miscellaneous Amendments) (England) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020. It allows two storeys to be built on blocks of flats built between 1948 and 2018—I do not have a personal interest in this matter, by the way—which will potentially wreck the lives of leaseholders who want to get their freehold and put the price up so that people like Vincent Tchenguiz can go stuffing his pockets again at the risk of the pockets and the expense of leaseholders.
Will my right hon. Friend look at this matter and ask whether there can be a better housing adviser in No. 10 and in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, to make sure that they do not get things wrong again?
I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s support and am happy to talk to him about the matter that he raised. I agree with him that there must be a green recovery—something he has championed for a long time—and it will be a green recovery.
I thank the Chancellor for the positive measures that he has announced, but why was there absolutely nothing serious for the self-employed? With unemployment rocketing—perhaps up to 3 million—and the climate emergency already hitting us, why is the Chancellor’s ambition for a green recovery so small? Surely we need far more green jobs, now and in future. Why is he not being as radical as European countries such as Germany and France, with a massive green fiscal stimulus for the technologies and industries of the future? Surely even his own home insulation plan should be three times as big and last five years to get real investment in our homes, to decarbonise, and to get the green jobs for our young people and for every community throughout our country.
The right hon. Gentleman asked about the self-employed; he will know that our self-employment scheme is without doubt one of the most comprehensive and generous—if not the most comprehensive and generous —anywhere in the world. That is considerable support that has already been provided. Also, 40% of those in the construction sector are self-employed. Many of the people installing the new energy-efficiency measures will be in that category and will benefit from that increased demand for their services—something that I am delighted will happen. Lastly, the right hon. Gentleman talks about Germany, as do other Members; it is important to remember that Germany’s plan for this €50 billion is one with unspecified dates stretching over five years. In March, we unveiled a £640 billion investment plan for the next five years.
I commend my right hon. Friend’s statement and the actions he has taken to ensure that we get the strongest possible recovery. He has been absolutely right thus far to spend “whatever it takes”—something he set out clearly back in March—but he will be acutely aware that interest rates will not stay low forever and that we will eventually need to bring our national debt back under control in order to sustain recovery, continue to create jobs and keep taxes low. So may I encourage him to set out new fiscal rules in his autumn Budget with the aim of getting our national debt down as a proportion of our national income by the end of this Parliament?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his kind support and also his advice. He is of course absolutely right, and I hope that he was heartened by what he heard me say in the statement about the importance of returning our public finances to a sustainable footing in the medium term. We can and will do exactly that. He is right to highlight the sensitivity of our debt to interest rates, which was why he was right to introduce into our fiscal framework the notion of an interest service rule, and that is something that I will look at keenly in the coming months.
I welcome the announcements that the Chancellor has made today to undo some of the economic damage caused by the actions taken to deal with the health crisis. I echo his point that these measures benefit places such as Northern Ireland only because we are part of the fifth biggest economy in the world and we have the umbrella of the UK to protect us against these economic crises. I am sure that the hospitality industry will welcome the measures that he has announced today, although they are quite time-limited. Clothes shops might welcome similar measures as well, because once we have eaten our way through a month’s half-price meals, we might need to visit them!
Other sectors that are important to Northern Ireland in terms of their export potential, high-value jobs, tourism and connectivity with the rest of the United Kingdom are the aerospace and aviation sectors, but there has been no mention of those sectors today. The Chancellor has said that these are the first of his steps, so I hope that we will quickly see some action taken to deal with those areas.
I am grateful for the right hon. Gentleman’s support. Perhaps alongside the “eat out to help out” scheme, we can make progress on reopening our gyms, to deal with that side of the equation at the same time. He is absolutely right to suggest that airlines and aviation are experiencing a difficult period. I remain in close contact with the industry and with individual companies to understand what is happening, and if there are things that we can and should do, of course we will.
Many Opposition Members would have us extend the furlough scheme indefinitely, but that would simply extend false hope. Does my right hon. Friend agree that bold demand-side measures, such as “eat out to help out” and the VAT cut, are much better ways to protect jobs and our much-loved businesses?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and the OECD agrees with her. We should not be peddling false hope to people. We should be providing a better future for them, and that is what our interventions today will do.
May I give a cautious welcome to the Chancellor’s emphasis on young people, employment and training? Many of us across the House have a lot of experience of schemes like this, some of which have worked better than others. We would be willing to work with him to make this a success. There is disappointment, however, that he has not accepted my challenge to introduce a windfall profit tax like the one Mrs Thatcher introduced in order to pay for a massive green apprenticeship scheme.
Lastly, on a very serious point, if we are going to train these young people, we have to have the capacity to do so. Further education colleges are in deep trouble, and they need help now. Private trainers, including some in my constituency, are struggling to maintain their existence. Will the Chancellor look at this urgently, because we need the trainers to train these young people?
The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that I am very happy to take advice on how best to design these schemes. I hope that he will take some comfort from the fact that I have just been talking to Frances O’Grady of the TUC. I am very open to hearing advice from the unions, which I know were involved in helping to design previous schemes.
With regard to green jobs, the measures that we have announced today will help to protect 140,000 green jobs. I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of training, which is why in the Budget we announced £400 million extra, I believe, for further education colleges’ funding this year and an ambitious plan to upgrade the entire FE estate over the coming years.
Most constituents in North West Durham and across the country will welcome the massive cash boost for employers who both hire our young people and protect employees with our new jobs retention bonus. Does my right hon. Friend agree with me that, alongside the confidence and demand boost delivered by his VAT cut and other measures in this extra Budget, the measures on employment show that this Conservative Government are putting jobs at the heart of our recovery from the global coronavirus pandemic?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I know that he shares with me a passionate belief, as I said, in the nobility of work. This plan today is about providing everyone in North West Durham and every other part of the country with the opportunity to secure good work.
This week saw the first meeting of the ExcludedUK all-party parliamentary group, an APPG for the excluded, the estimated 3 million people who have missed out on Government support and are facing real financial hardship. I note that the Chancellor has avoided answering questions on this matter so far today. May I explain to him, the excluded include people on zero-hours contracts, the directors of small companies paying themselves through dividends, and many self-employed people? In my constituency, that is taxi drivers, joiners, beauticians, childminders, care workers, driving instructors, IT consultants—the list goes on. Will the Chancellor look again at providing support to the excluded, so that they, too, can play their part in the recovery?
I have not avoided answering the question; I have answered it not just today, but on every other occasion that I have been at this Dispatch Box. We have provided comprehensive support to many millions of people, especially the self-employed—more generous and comprehensive than any other country—and I have acknowledged that we have not been able to help everyone in the exact way that they would like but, because of the strengthening of our welfare system that we put in place and our universal loan schemes, everyone has been able to access some form of support.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his characteristically timely and bold interventions, which will be welcomed by a lot of nervous households across the country. My constituents in Meriden are very environmentally focused and will welcome the green homes grant. Does he agree that it is about not just protecting the environment but creating jobs and giving the greatest benefit to those households on the lowest incomes?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Those on the lowest incomes will receive grants of up to £10,000 to cover the full costs, but that is a policy that does all three things: it will create local employment in communities, which right now is what we want; it will save households money on their bills, up to £200 or £300 for typical cavity wall insulation; and it will cut carbon, with the average house installing these measures saving the equivalent carbon of a flight from London to New York. This is a policy that does what we need right now—cuts carbon, creates jobs and saves cash.
To boost employment in Blaenau Gwent, we need to help more people get on the Ebbw Vale train to Cardiff, but the line needs to be redoubled, with improved signalling and bridging works. A business plan is in the pipeline from the Welsh Government. Will the Chancellor commit to follow through and please look at providing the investment for jobs that we need—in short, to do what is right for the people of the south Wales valleys?
I am very happy to look at the proposal from the hon. Gentleman, and I am sure that the Transport Secretary is fully abreast of it. I will pick it up with him as well.
The focus on jobs, and the measures, are excellent, so will the Government now review the taxes, subsidies and public procurement regulations so that they can be amended to allow us to grow more of our own food, land and process more of our own fish, generate more of our own power, and supply more of the things that our health service and Ministry of Defence require, because it can be better made in Britain, and better made with British jobs?
I thank my right hon. Friend for his support, and he is absolutely right: leaving the EU provides us with a unique opportunity to re-examine all our procurement rules and many of our regulations. I share his passion to ensure that, as much as possible, we support our local economy and create jobs, which has never been more vital than it is today.
I want to take the Chancellor back to page 14 of his statement. He will know that DWP management have asked for 30,000 additional posts, so will the doubling of work coaches be new posts or redeployments? Will the jobcentre closure programme be suspended as a result of his announcements, and will he build an attractive terms and conditions package, given the high staff turnover in the DWP?
We are investing an extra £1 billion in the DWP this year, specifically, among other things, to double the number of work coaches from 13,500. I am pleased to say that work has already started and recruitment is already under way. This will be done faster than ever before—certainly faster than in 2008-09.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement, and I add my voice to those highlighting the plight of self-employed people, or people who have been remunerating themselves through dividends and have not been able to benefit from the furlough scheme, as raised by my right hon. Friend the Chair of the Treasury Committee in a recent report, but may I thank him wholeheartedly for what he has done for the hospitality sector, which will help coastal communities such as those in Harwich and North Essex? It is a big boost for jobs and employment.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support. He is absolutely right. We are approaching a summer unlike any we have ever seen, and it is important that we all enjoy it safely. It will be different, but it is vital for our coastal communities and those used to welcoming visitors from home and abroad that they get to have a proper summer, and we can help collectively by eating out to help out. It is critical to remember that the 2 million people who work in these industries are particularly vulnerable and often are in areas that are not necessarily as resilient as others. They need our support so let us get out there this summer.
The Chancellor has made some excellent announcements, and none more so than to the hospitality sector. The prospect in his May announcement to that sector of grants of up to £25,000 delighted 9,000 hospitality businesses in my borough of Brent. That was the prospect. The reality was very different. His Department released just £3.3 million to Brent, which would have given each of those businesses no more than £366. What can he say to those 9,000 disappointed businesses, and will he back up today’s announcements with real cash this time?
The hon. Member talks about real cash and business rates grants. We have deployed more than £10 billion in cash to local authorities across this country, which has found its way to 800,000-plus businesses, through grants of either £10,000 or £25,000 targeted at businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sector. It has been a lifeline for small shops and businesses up and down the country.
I am pleased that the Chancellor has spoken about the hospitality and retail sectors, but in my constituency many of those are reliant on passengers going through Luton airport. Until there is targeted support for the aviation industry, those employees will not be supported. Many are young and from BAME backgrounds. Can I be assured that detailed equality impact assessments have been done on all aspects of the plan?
I have said before that this is a matter of social justice. It is precisely because the people who work in the sectors most affected are disproportionately younger, from BAME communities and women, and on lower pay and often are part time, that we have taken bold and decisive action to help those sectors. Ultimately, we are trying to help those 2 million employed people. The hon. Member is right. It is because of the equalities impact that the moment demands such action.
I thank my right hon. Friend for the generous support he has laid out today. It is particularly welcome for hospitality businesses, which have already been texting me their support for the packages. He will know that our country has regional inequalities, and many disadvantaged communities in the east midlands will be among the hardest hit by covid-19, while historically we have been underfunded compared with other regions. Will he help us to rebuild and have a strong local voice in this recovery by backing an east midlands authority as an effective voice for our area, to get all pistons firing on the midlands engine and rebalance things with our effective West Midlands Mayor, Andy Street, and make sure that the work he is delivering in government can be delivered effectively in the east midlands?
I am loth to get involved in an east midlands-west midlands spat, but I very much encourage my hon. Friend in his efforts. He makes an important point about the importance of local leadership. It will be local leaders—town councils, parish councils, local authorities and local enterprise partnerships—who drive forward our recovery one area at a time.
As others have mentioned and the Chancellor has acknowledged, the least well-off have suffered disproportionately from the health effects of the virus and must not pay the price of the economic consequences. Will he therefore ensure that the cost of these measures is borne not by the poor and low-paid, but by those with wealth and assets, whether in land and property here or in tax havens abroad, as so many chums in the Cabinet seem to have?
Our record speaks for itself: this Government have done more to tackle tax evasion and avoidance than any other Government in history. We collect hundreds of billions of pounds more than has ever been collected. Indeed, I seem to recall that many of those measures were opposed by Opposition parties.
I thank my right hon. Friend on behalf of the many constituents in Meon Valley who have benefited from the measures he has brought in during the coronavirus crisis and who will benefit from the ones he has announced today. Will the generous new arts funding be available for those in the live events industry? If not, might further support for them be announced in the near future?
The Culture Secretary is working through the detail of how the money will be distributed, so I direct my hon. Friend to him on the precise question she raises. I would say that it is important that that funding is not just for our crown-jewel assets, famous and important as they are, but will benefit the local cultural institutions in all our communities across the country.
Having introduced the future jobs fund and the wider youth job guarantee as Work and Pensions Secretary in 2009, and having been appalled when they were cancelled a year later under the coalition, I very much welcome the reintroduction of those measures now. The Chancellor will know that speedy delivery is crucial, and the scheme will have to be bigger because the crisis is bigger. We achieved it last time by involving local councils, working with the local private sector and third sector, to deliver jobs speedily. We could do that again. Will he confirm whether this is a job or training guarantee for every young person, as we had last time? If so, from which month will the guarantee apply?
The right hon. Lady knows this area well, and I enjoyed reading of and learning from some of the things she did at that time. In terms of a guarantee, what we have put in place is a comprehensive suite of interventions. She will know from the evidence that we want to encourage young people into work or some kind of work-based training. In the hierarchy of interventions, that should come first. However, we do have a classroom-based offer. She will have heard me talk about increased funding for level 2 and 3 training for school leavers especially, if they cannot avail themselves of traineeships, sector-based work academies or other interventions. More broadly, I would be very happy to sit down with her to get her advice and thoughts on how we can ensure that the kick-start scheme is as successful as it can be.
May I thank my right hon. Friend on behalf of the 9,900 furloughed workers of Darlington, whose prospects of redundancy have been reduced today, and the 1,000 unemployed young people of Darlington, whose prospects of a job have been improved today? Does he agree that his incredibly bold changes to stamp duty are the key to unlocking our housing market?
I know that my hon. Friend has been working very hard on behalf of his local businesses and young people, and I am glad that he welcomes today’s initiatives. He is right about unlocking the housing market. The intervention today will mean that almost 90% of people buying a main home in this country this year and until March next year will pay no stamp duty. It is a strong catalyst for people to get moving—to get buying and selling—and, importantly, to get renovating, all of which will create local jobs in Darlington and beyond.
Given the emergency nature of the statement, will the Chancellor lay out exactly what kind of impact assessment will be made of each of the funding pots, so that we can ensure value for money, look at the impact of each measure on the environment and avoid any corruption or fraud?
I assure the hon. Lady that all relevant impact assessments are conducted at the time that they are required by legislation. As for the environmental impact, I gave a flavour of it earlier. The sum total of the green homes grant scheme and public sector decarbonisation fund will mean that about half a megatonne of carbon will be saved every year, which is the equivalent of about 270,000 cars taken off the road, and there will be about 140,000 new jobs. I hope she will welcome that.
Representing a coastal constituency, may I warmly welcome the hospitality industry measures, which are very practical? May I suggest that this should be, “Eat out, to help out, to work out”, for which we need our gyms open again?
I recognise that this is mostly about business, and I welcome the emphasis on young people, but may I ask my right hon. Friend not to forget the youngest people? Some 200,000 babies have been born during lockdown and we have seen a higher incidence of perinatal mental illness, with new parents unable to access extended family support and health visitors. What steps can he take to make sure that this cohort is helped to catch up as well?
I thank my hon. Friend for that. I wholeheartedly agree with him about gyms, and have hope on that, as the Prime Minister has indicated previously that he is keen to see progress made there. On the issue of early years and children, my hon. Friend knows this better than many others—other than perhaps one colleague sitting behind me—and he is right in what he says. He will know the work we did on the troubled families programme, and I was grateful to him when I was a Local Government Minister for his advice and support on that. I know that the early years working group has put forward a range of suggestions that we can take forward into the spending review.
The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the deep and systematic inadequacies of the current social care system and revealed the true extent of the impact that underfunding, structural issues and market instability have had on the system’s ability to respond and protect older people at a time of crisis. Despite the Prime Minister seeking to flagrantly blame our incredible social care sector for excess deaths this week, when will the Government get serious about caring for our most vulnerable and fund local authorities properly to bring social care services back in-house?
In our manifesto, we committed to an extra £1 billion a year for social care, and that is what we have delivered this year and will continue to deliver. During this crisis, we have provided £3.7 billion to local authorities and an additional £600 million for infection control in care homes. But as the Prime Minister has said, we remain committed to ensuring that local authorities and care homes get all the support that they need.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement and all the work he has done in the past months to preserve jobs and assist our businesses. Young people are at greater risk of unemployment at this time, and I welcome his plans to help 16 to 24-year-olds with his kick-start scheme, traineeships and a better careers advice service. Does he agree that these proposals will be good for them and for our economy, and give real hope for the future, with many more jobs?
I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for his support. He is absolutely right; the research and the evidence lays bare the risk that young people face from scarring at this early stage in their careers. They are entering an appalling labour market, which is why it is crucial that we have made the interventions that we have today, particularly the kick-start scheme. He is right: if this is about one word, it is about providing them with hope.
At the beginning of this crisis, the Chancellor said that the Government would do “whatever it takes”. Local government finance is in crisis, but it was not mentioned in his statement today. Durham County Council has spent £62 million on its covid response and it has had £33.2 million from the Government, leaving £28.8 million for the taxpayer locally to pick up. When will he bring forward a comprehensive settlement for local government, which is being called for by all political parties in local government? Without it services will be lost and jobs will also be cut.
As a former Local Government Minister, I know at first hand what a great job our local authorities do, but I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that the last two years’ settlements for local government have involved record increases in core spending power—
No, they haven’t!
They absolutely have—the highest in over a decade, two years in a row. In this crisis, we have provided £3.7 billion for local authorities and an additional £600 million for infection control. Just last week, at the Local Government Association conference, my right hon. Friend the Local Government Secretary unveiled a new deal with local government to help provide some compensation for the losses through income that has gone, in a sharing arrangement, and it was warmly welcomed by the sector and at the LGA.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement and for so carefully judging what is needed now as we move forward, particularly to support young people who have been hard hit by recent events. Thousands of young people in my constituency got their first foot on the jobs ladder through apprenticeships at places such as the Basingstoke College of Technology. How will my right hon. Friend’s plan for jobs build confidence among employers to create and sustain more apprenticeships at this very difficult time?
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right about the impact on young people. They are two and a half times more likely to work in a sector that has been closed down. She is right, and we know that apprenticeships work: the evidence points that way. What I can tell her is that, starting in September, employers will be paid £2,000 for every young apprentice that they take on, a bonus that will incentivise them to create more apprenticeships at this time of vital need.
Alan Gerring has been an independent builder for years in my constituency of Broxtowe. I spoke to him today, and he would welcome the green homes grant as a chance to cut emissions, but also to support plumbers, builders and other self-employed microbusinesses. Does my right hon. Friend agree that now is the moment to unleash green van man?
I thank my hon. Friend, and I have a feeling that might catch on, but that is exactly what we are trying to do. By our green homes grants and by stamp duty cuts, we are getting activity going, we are getting people at work, we are getting work to happen, and all of that will be good for our local communities. I know people in Broxtowe will welcome it, and I am thankful to him for coining a phrase.
One word that has not been mentioned so far is childcare, yet we know that two thirds of women who want to return to work in the next couple of months cannot because they cannot get any, and that 71% of our voluntary sector childcare agencies are already operating at a loss, risking their closing in the coming weeks. So can the Chancellor set out what funding he is providing now to make sure that parents can get back to work?
With regard to nurseries, for example, we have already included them in the business rates holidays for this year, and also ensured that the funding that they receive from Government remains constant throughout this crisis. On top of that, they have access to our other areas of support—bounce back loans and others—but of course we keep everything under review.
My right hon. Friend’s support for business and workers has safeguarded the livelihoods of thousands of my constituents in Orpington. Now more than ever, it is vital that we stick to sound economic principles to help our nation’s recovery. Will my right hon. Friend therefore reject the Leader of the Opposition’s hard-left call for a raid on people’s hard-won homes and savings in the form of a new wealth tax, and offer reassurance that the Government will continue to focus instead on policies aimed at creating wealth, rather than simply plundering it?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right: at this stage, that is absolutely not the policy that we should be pursuing. What we should be pursuing is policies that will get people back to work, encourage and incentivise businesses to take on new employees and new apprenticeships, and ultimately—he is right—create the wealth that funds our public services.
Does the Chancellor agree that it makes no sense to withdraw support from businesses that are viable but cannot work at all at present, or cannot work profitably because of the ongoing effects of health restrictions, such as in aviation, aerospace manufacturing and technical production companies, all of which I have in my constituency? Furlough is going to end, but his job retention bonus will not be available to them because they cannot go back to their usual work at the moment. Will he change his one-size-fits-all approach to winding down the employment schemes that have kept many companies going in these sectors? Otherwise, he will simply have deferred a wave of mass redundancies, job losses and business failures of fundamentally sound businesses, which he could save if he makes some adjustment.
There are a few remaining closed sectors, and I agree with the hon. Lady that it is absolutely right that we get those open. Indeed, the Prime Minister has said recently that that is something that he is keen to see happen, and hopefully we can make progress on that soon. With regard to the other sectors, we need to adjust to a new economy, which is why it is right that over time furlough winds down gradually and flexibly, while at the same time we reward employees generously for bringing furloughed employees back. We have also put in place a range of other interventions today to help provide hope and opportunity to young people and others across the country.
The tourism and hospitality sector right across the UK will thoroughly welcome my right hon. Friend’s announcements today, but the sector in my constituency will benefit only if it is allowed to open, so will he endorse the call by Jim Jones, the chief executive of North Wales Tourism, for the Welsh Government to open up restaurants, pubs, cafés and indoor attractions by no later than 19 July?
My hon. Friend knows well how important tourism is to Wales’s economy. In fact, it may well be more reliant on tourism than any other part of the UK, from memory, so I fully understand and sympathise with his desire to get his local tourism businesses open, ready for business and ready to ensure that we can all enjoy the summer safely in Wales.
In response to an earlier question, the Chancellor said that everything in the garden was rosy with local government finance, but he will know that local government faces a catastrophic loss of revenue next year as a result of covid-19, and that that will have a devastating effect on jobs and services. Knowsley Council alone faces a loss of income of £90 million, and the Liverpool city region faces a loss of £112 million, so will the Chancellor give a firm commitment that councils will receive full funding for the collection fund shortfalls in 2021 and 2022?
The Local Government Secretary addressed that issue just last week and unveiled a comprehensive agreement with local government to provide loss sharing on income that has been forgone during this crisis.
Milton Keynes has a significant consumption economy, and our hospitality sector has been particularly hard hit in this global pandemic, not just in central Milton Keynes but in our market towns and, indeed, in our rural pubs. Will my right hon. Friend join me in encouraging everybody in Milton Keynes—in fact, anybody who can travel to our wonderful Milton Keynes and market towns—to eat out to help out?
My hon. Friend knows well, and he has seen first-hand, what a great job his local businesses have done in ensuring that their premises are safe for us to return to. They have made an enormous effort to be able to welcome us back. With our new eat out to help out discount, we can all play our part in helping to support their businesses and to protect those jobs.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said that 13 universities could go bust as a result of covid-19. That will not only reduce choice and opportunity, but create unemployment and damage the local economies where they reside. Can the Chancellor state his commitment to build back better and support social mobility by confirming that no university will be allowed to collapse?
My right hon. Friends the Education Secretary and the Business Secretary have already outlined proposals to engage with universities where they face difficulty. In particular, they have put in place measures to deal with the issue of fewer overseas students being here and to protect our higher education research base.
I thank my right hon. Friend for the major steps that he is taking to get money flowing through the economy in East Devon and beyond. Cutting VAT on food, accommodation and attractions to 5% has been described as “epic” by the South West Tourism Alliance. The measures announced today will protect jobs, but perhaps not my waistline, as I wholeheartedly promise to eat out to help out. Will my right hon. Friend continue to work with me and south-west MPs to protect and strengthen tourism in the best part of Britain?
My North Yorkshire constituents might have something to say about that, but I know how important tourism is to my hon. Friend’s constituency, similar to so many of our rural constituencies up and down the country. I am glad that he will be doing his bit to eat out to help out. I hope that others will join him. In doing so, we can collectively help to protect 2 million jobs across our country.
While the Chancellor has made welcome announcements on the hospitality and cultural sectors, he has said nothing in support of the events industry and those who work in it, despite the Prime Minister promising a timetable for reopening last week. From wedding receptions and conferences to world-famous exhibition centres, such as Olympia in my constituency, events make a £70 billion contribution to the economy. When will safe, organised events with more than 30 people attending be permitted, as they are in most other countries?
I sympathise with the hon. Member and agree that the best thing we can do to help these sectors is to get them to reopen. I know this is something that the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary are looking at as we speak. Hopefully, in the weeks to come, as we progress our fight against this virus, we can continue to reopen all the closed parts of our economy and progressively loosen some of the restrictions that currently we all face.
I am over the moon with the Chancellor’s statement. He is rebuilding our apprenticeships and skills nation and ensuring that young people can climb the important ladder of opportunity—so thank you. He knows that the public sector target for apprenticeships is 2.3%. Will he consider raising the target by 5%, which would create 4,000 new apprenticeships in 2020-21, based on hiring 50,000 new members of staff in the public sector? Will he also change procurement rules to ensure that any big company bidding for a public sector contract must have at least 5% of its workforce employed as apprentices?
My right hon. Friend knows this subject particularly well, so I am grateful to him for his comments. He makes two very interesting suggestions and I look forward to discussing them with him further.
In his reply to the right hon. Member for Wokingham (John Redwood), the Chancellor said that leaving the EU gave us the opportunity to reform our procurement regulations, so will he say exactly when he will take that opportunity and send out revised guidelines to tell Whitehall and town halls to prioritise British-based companies and British jobs? [Interruption.]
Order. Somebody’s phone is ringing. Will hon. Members just check their phones, please?
The right hon. Gentleman will know that during the transition period this year we are still constrained, but he can rest assured that from next year, when we have our full freedom, we can take advantage of all these things and ensure that our local economies benefit as they should.
I warmly welcome the Chancellor’s announcements on employment programmes. Jobs are vital going forward and this is exactly the right thing to do. I am particularly pleased to see the expansion of the sector-based work academies—one of the programmes we launched when I was Employment Minister 10 years ago. I can assure the Chancellor that we do not need to learn too many lessons from the Opposition, given our record on employment in the period up to the crisis, but I am concerned about one group on the jobs front: those in the aerospace and aviation sectors. Will he keep them firmly in mind and perhaps look at whether aviation could be included in the VAT reductions, or look at other measures to support a sector that is vital to our economy but has been very badly affected?
My right hon. Friend is right about the difficulties facing the aviation and aerospace industries, and of course I will keep them very much uppermost in my mind as we go through the next few months. More generally, I pay tribute to the work that he did when he had those briefs. He knows at first hand what it takes to get unemployment down, get people into work and give them hope and opportunity. I hope that we can build on the success that he had, because we will absolutely need to deliver for our young people in the coming months.
The Chancellor says he is proud of the Government’s green record, yet the green measures announced today will cut just 0.14% of UK emissions—not only that, but this is a Government who are still committed to spending £27 billion on new roads. If he wants to have a green record that he can genuinely be proud of, will he start by cancelling the roads scheme, put the money into public transport and broadband, and introduce a new rule for the UK economy to ensure that all spending and taxation is in line with the Paris agreement and restoring our natural world?
It is a record to be proud of. We have cut carbon emissions by 40% in the last few years. We are now a world leader in offshore wind and, for the first time ever last year, we generated the majority of our energy from zero carbon sources. We are building on our progress. That has happened under a Conservative Government, and whether it is through our nature for climate fund, our measures to tackle air quality, or new technologies such as direct air capture or carbon capture and storage, this Government will ensure that we meet our net zero obligations and do so in a way that creates jobs in every part of our United Kingdom.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his excellent statement and his £30 billion jobs plan, which will give hope to thousands of people in my constituency—I thank him for that. I am particularly grateful for the commitment to the future of our young people, who are hardest hit by this crisis. The kick-start scheme is for an initial six months. Will he reconsider and review it at the end of that period?
I thank my hon. Friend for her support. She has spent a lot of time in this place championing the futures of young people. I am pleased to tell her that the kick-start scheme will be for longer than six months. It will be open for bidding, hopefully, at the end of this month or the beginning of next month, and the first new kick-starters will start in the autumn. The scheme will run at least until the end of next year. Hopefully, if it is popular, we can get as many as hundreds of thousands of young people being part of the kick-start programme. I hope that she and her constituency can be a champion for it.
Three hundred and fifty billion pounds: that is how much the UK Treasury has coined from Scotland’s oil and gas sector over the past decade, so I say to the Chancellor that it is time to give back. When will his Government finally stop dithering and instead deliver on an oil and gas sector deal to protect jobs now while creating new and sustainable jobs for Aberdeen’s future?
Scotland has benefited extraordinarily from the interventions that this Government have put in place during this crisis. I talked earlier about the Barnett consequentials and the billions of pounds, but more importantly about the ability for us to act as one United Kingdom. At a time like this, the importance of that has never been more to the fore. The hon. Gentleman talks about oil and gas. I am happy to acknowledge the difficulties in that sector, and I know that the Business Secretary is in talks with it. Mechanisms have been put in place before. Again, we keep all these things under review, and if we need to make more interventions in future, of course we will.
I thank the Chancellor for his statement and also for his kind words that he is considering my proposals on recapitalising the SME sector. I want to ask about the infrastructure funding of, I think, £5.6 billion that he has committed to today. Will he expand on how he thinks we can get infrastructure delivered more quickly, whether it is through dealing with planning regulations or other practical obstacles, because that is how we can make sure that that money is most effective?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is one thing to sit here and approve budgets for things; it is more important that we get on and actually deliver them. We need to make sure that our communities see tangible improvements in what is happening around them, and, particularly given the economic situation we face at the moment, there is a premium on doing that quickly. That is why we brought forward £5 billion-worth of projects and why we have initiated Project Speed to look at our entire process end to end—procurement, planning, construction and regulations approval—to ensure that we can deliver for our communities as quickly as possible.
Richard Murphy, a professor of political economy at City University in London, says that the Government have the potential to raise £174 billion a year if wealth was taxed at the same rate as income. That could cover the cost of the job retention scheme for over 12 months, according to the latest estimates from the Office for Budget Responsibility. Does the Chancellor believe that the time is right for a radical overhaul of our taxation system in order to fulfil the Prime Minister’s levelling-up promise, or is the truth that we are not really “all in this together”?
No, I do not believe that now is the time, or ever would be the time, for a wealth tax. Now is the time to recognise the acute challenge that we face of unemployment and now is the time to act decisively and with compassion to provide hope and opportunity to the hundreds of thousands of young people, especially, who are at risk of scarring and losing the future that they deserve. That is why we have put in place the measures today, and that is what the focus should be on.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement. Young people are perhaps more at risk from the economic impact of coronavirus, so I was very pleased to see the introduction of the kick-start programme. Does he agree that a comprehensive package of support for apprenticeships and traineeships, and other support too, will allow young people to acquire the skills they need to take the opportunities of the future?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We cannot afford to lose this generation; they cannot be the generation that is defined and scarred by coronavirus. That is why, as he rightly identifies, we have put in place a suite of interventions, from traineeships to apprenticeships to the kick-start fund, all designed to help that generation to a better and a brighter future.
According to StepChange Debt Charity, 4.5 million people have lost income and accumulated £6 billion of debt in arrears on household bills during the pandemic. Will the Chancellor ensure that economic recovery plans also include a strategy to support people in unavoidable coronavirus-related financial difficulties?
I know my colleague the Financial Secretary has been abreast of this issue for a while, and he has just reminded me that we have invested £37 million in debt advisory services during this time. I also know that he is taking forward actions on our breathing space initiative, which is something that he passionately believes in, and I wholeheartedly support those efforts.
The Chancellor has answered many specific questions, but I would like to commend the overall tone of his statement, which he began by saying that he would be “unencumbered by dogma”, but with
“a simple desire to do what is right.”
His responses have oftentimes mentioned the social justice imperative behind his plan for jobs, which I think will strike many in the country as absolutely right.
May I echo the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid), about the need, when we come to the fall, to look at ways in which overall debt as a burden on the GDP of the country can be brought under control?
I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for those comments, and he is absolutely right about how I have approached this. As I have said, for me, it is a question not just of economics but of values, and we demonstrate those through the actions we take and the people that we prioritise. He is also right to highlight the importance of sustainability in our public finances, which he knows I passionately care about and have spoken about repeatedly from these Benches. He can rest assured that as we come to the autumn, we will set our public finances on a path back to sustainability.
The Chancellor failed today to set out sector-specific help for British manufacturers. In doing so, he is gambling with an important industry and making the UK less competitive compared with countries such as Germany, France and the United States. Perhaps the Chancellor can set out for the House today what it is that he has against British workers making British aeroplanes, British cars and British steel?
I am not entirely sure about the tone of the hon. Member’s question. The support schemes we have put in place have benefited equally all sectors and all workers in every region and part of our United Kingdom. Manufacturing companies have been large users of the furlough scheme and are very grateful for it. They are now in the process of bringing those workers back and adding shifts, and they are grateful also for the flexibility that that scheme provides. What they are more interested in when I speak to them are our ambitious commitments, such as our plans to double research and development investment. We will be working closely with the private sector to do that, helping create the innovations that will drive growth, productivity and employment tomorrow.
My right hon. Friend is doing a fantastic job in promoting and protecting jobs, but to really trade our way out of this recession, we will need to look at the future, and I know he is keen as I am to see a green recovery. Does he agree that COP26 next year offers us a really good opportunity to show UK global leadership, including by working now with international partners in big projects in areas such as battery storage, offshore wind or carbon capture, usage and storage? Those areas can create green jobs for the future the Chancellor.
My right hon. Friend knows this area better than most. She is absolutely right. This is an opportunity for us to demonstrate global leadership, and she can rest assured that we will do so, particularly on the finance track, which I am responsible for. I am working closely with Mark Carney, who is the Prime Minister’s envoy, and we are trying to put in place an ambitious set of goals that we can help deliver. She also talked about our leadership in particular areas, and those are things that we must double-down on. With offshore wind and carbon capture and storage, we can lead the world in developing those technologies.
Although I welcome the temporary reduction in VAT, it does not go nearly far enough to help the tourism and hospitality businesses in my already economically fragile Argyll and Bute constituency. Surely to ensure that these otherwise robust businesses are still there and are ready to go again next year, they need an extension of furlough to be able to retain their staff and to have access to grants, rather than having to rely on the business interruption loan scheme.
I will not repeat my comments on an ever-extending furlough scheme. I do not think that that is the right thing to do. With regard to grants, we provided grants—£10,000 or £25,000—specifically to businesses in the retail, hospitality and tourism sector, and that is why those businesses did not necessarily have to use loans if they did not want to. They received that support early in this crisis, because we acknowledged the particular difficulty that they would face. The hon. Gentleman referred to the VAT cut, which was one of the significant asks—if not the significant ask—from industry, but there is also the “eat out to help out” discount that will drive tons of businesses and protect millions of jobs.
The Chancellor spoke about finding a new balance between safety and normality. Is it not time to look at moving away from the guidance that people should work from home if possible towards guidance that they should go to work if it is safe to do so? May I also urge him to reflect over the summer on whether a cut or suspension of air passenger duty would be the best way to get the aviation sector back to health for next year?
My hon. Friend, as always, champions the aviation industry. He is right to do so, and, as he knows, we are committed to a review of aerospace taxation, so I will certainly bear that in mind. With regard to the guidance, I share with him an impatience to get our lives back to normal. I know what a difference it will make, not just to those businesses, but to all the ancillary businesses that are used to office workers being in their offices. That is something that we should hopefully look to address in the coming weeks and months as we progressively move back to a new normal.
Having campaigned for many years for a 5% rate of VAT for the visitor economy, may I welcome that part of the Chancellor’s announcement today? May I ask him, though, please not to close the door on the idea of extending that or even making it permanent? He will have the best possible data now to test against previous studies that have shown that that rate could actually bring a better return of revenue for the Treasury. I fear that, even for my constituency where we have a highly seasonal visitor economy, many of the businesses will not benefit from it, because they are not intending to reopen again until next spring.
I know that this will make a big difference. It is important though that it is time limited. That is in keeping with most other countries that have done something similar—they have also run theirs through to the end of the year. I will happily bear all future tax suggestions in mind, but, in the short term, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman’s constituents and businesses get the boost in confidence and demand that they will need.
It is bold, it is imaginative, and it is well-targeted. I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Chancellor on this package, which will do so much to promote jobs and growth across the country. I very much welcome the cut in VAT and in stamp duty, but most welcome of all is the kick-start scheme, which brings hope to young people in these difficult times. Unlike Labour’s future jobs fund, it is not just focused on the public sector. Does he agree that it will have most impact if it is fully embraced by the private sector, and private businesses take advantage of the opportunity to take on young workers?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is important that we provide as many opportunities for young people as possible. One thing we want to improve and build on is the involvement of the private sector. I hope that this becomes a galvanising cry to businesses, small and large, up and down the country to take on a kick-starter to help play their part in the recovery, and I know that this is an area in which he has strong experience from his time in London. I appreciate the advice and suggestions that he has given me about how to encourage and incentivise businesses to create jobs and opportunity.
May I take the opportunity to say thank you, Chancellor? I am already receiving text messages from my constituents— from the business community and from ordinary men and women—saying thank you to the Chancellor for some of the measures that have been announced today. So, thank you, Sir. It is a very important statement that you have made and it will benefit many of my constituents. Last week, the Prime Minister told us from the Dispatch Box that the Government were going to invest massively in hydrogen power. The Chancellor had me on tenterhooks. I was waiting for the statement. I was waiting for him to tell me that the new hydrogen strategy is about to be announced. It has not come, so he still has me on tenterhooks. Will he now commit solidly, on behalf of the Government and of the Treasury, to unlock that strategy that will unlock £1.5 billion of investment money in the whole of the United Kingdom. Invest billions of pounds into this new strategy and that will allow us to commit, as a nation, to this new, clean, green technology? Will the Chancellor meet me and colleagues—
Order. Mr Paisley—
No, not thank you. You are going to stay on those tenterhooks. You will be on them for a long time if you do that again. [Laughter.]
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his very kind words. I am glad it will make a difference to his constituents, as I hope it will to communities up and down the country across our United Kingdom. On hydrogen, what I can say is that I am absolutely not in a position to steal my boss’s thunder, so I will leave future announcements on hydrogen to him. The hon. Gentleman can rest assured that it is something that the Prime Minister and I—and, indeed, the Treasury—take very seriously.
I will be brief. Last week, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister accepted my pleading to come and visit Dudley. He delivered a visionary speech and saw for himself the building of the institute of technology that will futureproof people for the jobs of the future. Will my right hon. Friend the Chancellor please also visit Dudley to support that scheme, as well as our ambition for a university campus, as I want Dudley people to be jobs-ready?
I am very happy to accept my hon. Friend’s invitation. He is absolutely right. The best way for us to provide opportunity for people is to give them the skills and the education they need, whether through universities, institutes of technology, further education, schools or apprenticeships. Providing people with that knowledge is what will enable them to build a better future for their lives. That is something that he and I both feel very passionately about. We will, as a Government, deliver that.
I am genuinely surprised that the Chancellor has not today brought forward a flexible furlough scheme for aviation, which he knows will have a longer recovery tail. I hope that, as he keeps in touch with the industry, he will also keep in touch with MPs from aviation communities for place-based support. He is right that young people and others will need support and access to jobs, and I welcome the kick-start scheme. However, with experts estimating that over 30,000 work coaches are needed and unemployment in the sector set to hit a record high in October, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions expects 4,500 new work coaches to be in place by then. Is the Chancellor concerned that there will not be enough in place to meet demand when we most need it, and what more does he think can be done?
I commend and applaud all the efforts the Work and Pensions Secretary and her team are doing at the moment. Just for reference, they are doubling the number of work coaches and doing it in record time. We will have 13,500 in just eight months—a 100% increase. It is worth comparing that to what happened in 2008-09, when the Department for Work and Pensions recruited just 10,000, a 60% increase, which took 12 months. We will go as fast as is necessary, but no one can accuse us of not doing as much as we can, as quickly as we can, to provide people with the support that they need.
Make no mistake, what the Chancellor has announced today to save a generation of young people from bearing the brunt of this economic crisis is incredibly positive and to be welcomed. May I welcome, in particular, the determination of my right hon. Friend to avoid past mistakes in employment schemes, where we saw too many examples of young people in work placements not doing meaningful work, with poor oversight, poor management and no opportunity to really build their skill levels? Make this scheme, the kick-start scheme, the best employment support scheme we have ever seen.
I very much thank my right hon. Friend for that support. Of course, this is an area he will know well. He is absolutely right. There is no point in doing this if the work placements are of low quality. It is important that we get it right as we construct the bidding process. I would be very grateful to him if he sat down with me so that we can get his thoughts on how best to achieve that.
I join my hon. Friend the shadow Chancellor in urging an end to poverty pay for our care workers. Today’s interventions in the job market are welcome, but there is still no recognition in pay for the fantastic job done in this crisis by our care staff. Rather than blaming care staff, as the Government have done this week, will the Chancellor commit to showing them some parity of esteem with NHS staff and pay them a real living wage of £10 an hour?
I join my colleagues in paying enormous tribute to those on the frontline during this crisis, who have done an extraordinary job under incredibly difficult circumstances. They deserve not just our thanks, but our praise, and they have it. In terms of public sector pay we are in the midst of the second year of inflation-busting pay rises for almost a million people, and we have got social care who are funded from local authorities. As I said, local government has enjoyed two years of record increases in core spending power, which hopefully will help find its way to the frontline.
May I make a suggestion to my right hon. Friend of one way in which he could help fund some of today’s expenditure commitments? That is to implement without further delay the cap on public sector exit payments. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury promised on 13 March that that would be done by bringing forward secondary legislation before the summer recess. That has not happened. Can my right hon. Friend therefore allay concerns that the process is being sabotaged by Treasury mandarins—the Sir Humphreys—who have for five years successfully resisted this proposal, which was supported by the House in legislation five years ago?
I remember that when I had the Chief Secretary’s job we discussed this very topic, and my hon. Friend is right to keep highlighting it. What I can tell him is that, as the Chief Secretary said, I believe, very recently, we are well on the way to implementing the measure and will bring forward appropriate legislation in due course.
Given that councils have a statutory responsibility to set a balanced annual budget, even the further help announced last week will not be enough for councils like Leeds and many others. I urge the Chancellor to look again at what the Treasury can do to help fill the remaining gap, which in the case of Leeds is £63 million, because without further assistance the council will, by law, have to start cutting jobs, and those could include non-statutory services that have been so important in providing support to communities affected by covid.
The right hon. Member is right to highlight the important work that Leeds council does. Having spent some time there, seeing how they do early intervention in children’s services in particular, I was very impressed when I did the local government job. My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has been engaging extensively with the sector. We have put billions of pounds of incremental support in place. Of course it was going to be difficult—it is difficult for all of us, whether it is business or a local authority—to get through this time, but considerable support has been put in place. In particularly, the announcement last week on a loss-sharing arrangement with central Government for their income and fees and charges is an important step in the right direction.
I thank my right hon. Friend for the steps he has announced today, particularly focused on young people, which show yet again that the Conservatives do what works, not just what might sound good, even if it means tough decisions in the short term. Can he confirm that from the support given so far, proportionately the lowest-income families in our society have benefited the most?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The analysis published today shows that we have reduced the scale of losses for working households by up to two-thirds in general, but the support for the poorest households has been the highest. He will find that in the distributional analysis published today. It demonstrates what we believe is important at a time like this—to protect the most vulnerable in our society. I know that is something that he feels very deeply, and I share that feeling.
The country expects us to pull together now to get our country back on its feet. In that spirit, let me welcome the investment that the Chancellor has announced today for young people and for the hospitality trade. My observation, though, is that of the money he has brought forward, the capital is only about 5% to 6% of the budget that he has earmarked for the next four or five years. What that means in my region is 50p per person per week invested in so-called shovel-ready projects. That is not enough.
But crucially, there is a gaping hole in today’s announcement where support for manufacturing should be. We have 330,000 people across the west midlands on furlough in construction, manufacturing and the car business. I believe that the sharp ends to the furlough arrangements will put many people out of work, and there is no subsidy scheme for new cars of the type that has been announced in France and Germany. We want to be the capital of green manufacturing. I fear that, from today, we are now looking at manufacturing meltdown.
When it comes to capital investment, it is important to put in context what our existing budgets were for this year. I announced £88 billion at the Budget for this year. That represents a 20% increase on our capital investment plans in the previous year and, as a percentage of GDP, the highest amount that we have invested in capital since the ’70s. The starting base level for our capital investment is already exceptionally high. We have brought £5 billion of additional projects forward into this year, but, taken in the round, it will be the most we have ever spent on capital in real terms for a very, very long time.
Will this young, vigorous Chancellor not be too cruel to an old Thatcherite for making this deeply unfashionable point? There are no good, long-term subsidised jobs. As we saw with the new Labour make-work jobs and with furlough, sooner or later they are subject to fraud and market distortion. Will he confirm that the only good, long-term jobs are based on the Government ensuring deregulation, market flexibility and tax cuts on entrepreneurship, with a plan to repay the national debt? Otherwise, as the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne) once said, there will be no more money.
I wholeheartedly agree with my right hon. Friend. He is absolutely right: these interventions are specific to the moment that we face now. They provide support for young people at this moment of acute crisis. In the long term, only a dynamic market economy can provide sustainable, long-term employment for young people and beyond. In the medium term, once we get through this crisis, we must return our public finances to a sustainable place.
The community access to cash scheme recently announced at Cambuslang in my constituency is going to become one of the pilot areas, bringing back much needed payment facilities to our community, which has lost several bank branches. The Chancellor has promised legislation to improve access to cash, which is needed urgently in the light of the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus. When will he bring forward that vital legislation to protect cash use, support small business and boost the recovery of our high streets?
The hon. Member makes a good and fair point about the importance of cash, particularly in our rural communities. My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary is very much on top of this. He is conducting roundtables with the industry in the coming weeks, and we will bring forward legislation, as we have committed to do.
I thank the Chancellor for bringing some real hope today. Early years providers have played their part in getting us through this pandemic, but reduced attendance combined with increased costs is taking its toll. That is on top of the fact that, as he and I have discussed before, this sector is struggling and has been experiencing market failure for quite a long time. Jobs, jobs, jobs is fantastic and right, but it has to be backed by childcare that actually exists. Will he give me some time—it only has to be a short amount; 15 minutes would be fantastic—so that we can set out the challenge this sector faces and some of our suggested solutions?
I know that this matter is close to my hon. Friend’s heart, and he has brought it up with me before. I would be delighted to give him the time he asks for to discuss this matter further.
Last week Airbus announced that 1,700 jobs are going in this country. It cannot afford to wait for a bonus payment in January, so what is the Chancellor going to do to save those jobs now?
I have been very clear: I cannot save every single job. It is a tragic fact that what we have done to our economy over the past few months means that there will be job losses. Unemployment will rise. It is something that we cannot avoid, but what we can do is put in place a range of interventions to provide new hope and new opportunity for those who lose their jobs, so that they can find the skills, work placements or new jobs they need to provide a better future for themselves and their family. That is what we will devote all our energies to in the coming weeks and months.
I am grateful to the Chancellor for this statement and the enormous package of money that is being put into our constituencies and the economy. I am keen to see even more money made available for us to spend on the things that really matter in the UK. One way to do that is to cut down on fraud and corruption. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on whistleblowing, I am very keen that we do that. Will he join me for our webinar tomorrow, when we will be looking at ways that international Governments are tackling this through programmes, so that we can deal with the problem of corruption and fraud? I thank him for everything that he has done on tackling furlough fraud, which has been a real issue in our economy.
I pay tribute to the work my hon. Friend does in this area. She is absolutely right that we must tackle corruption and fraud in procurement. It costs billions, if not tens of billions, of pounds; that is money lost to the Exchequer that we can use to fund public services, and it also means that our local authorities in particular do not get the quality of services that they need to provide for their residents. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to focus on this, and I very much look forward to hearing what proposals she might have for us to take forward.
I thank the Chancellor for advancing some very important mechanisms, although I share the concerns of others about those who have fallen through the cracks, such as new freelancers and those on precarious contracts. Given the need to protect confidence in spending, and given the opportunity that historically low interest base rates hold, will the Chancellor consider speaking to the banks, particularly those in which the Government have a majority stake, about offering temporary lower-cost mortgage products, as that could save hundreds of pounds for the average household? Will he be open to meeting me to discuss this idea?
My hon. Friend the Economic Secretary is in close contact with the banking sector and deserves enormous credit for the measures he has put in place to provide forbearance to people during this difficult time, and he will be very happy to meet the hon. Lady. He put in place a scheme that provided mortgage holidays to people, and I think about one in six mortgages was able to benefit from that. Millions of people will therefore have welcomed that relief, and I pay tribute to him for the excellent work he has done.
Having question 74, it is difficult to think of something that has not been mentioned yet, but it is a fair bet that up until now no one has quoted the Grimsby Telegraph, which last week said, after the Prime Minister’s speech:
“Now put your money where your mouth is Boris!”
The Chancellor has delivered on that today. The article finished by saying:
“Give us the opportunity and we’ll show the country what can be achieved”,
and the support given to businesses today will verify that.
May I also urge the Chancellor to consider yet again the freeport issue for Immingham and Grimsby? The consultation ends next week. Please do not waste time mulling over the consultation responses; deliver freeport status for Immingham and Grimsby.
My hon. Friend is right, as always, about the importance of private enterprise in driving our growth forward. He is right to highlight a freeport. I know what a difference it would make to his community; I remember that when I met his local businesses they were hungry to take up that opportunity to attract investment, to create new jobs, and to drive up productivity, and I look forward to working with him in the coming months on trying to make that a reality.
A nine-month cut to stamp duty is welcome, but without an injection of new houses it risks forcing up prices, making it harder, not easier, for first-time buyers to buy homes. This statement should have been taken as an opportunity to inject capital into the housing market, and also into social housing, building houses that people can afford to live in, and creating opportunities for new jobs, new apprenticeships and new skills that people can use in the future, so will the Chancellor go away and have a look at putting some money particularly into building social housing?
The good news is that we already have. The Prime Minister announced it, and I talked about it at the Budget: the affordable homes programme will increase from £9 billion to £12 billion over the next few years, a significant uplift in the amount of new housing delivery—180,000 new homes, from memory. With regard to the benefits of stamp duty, the evidence we have both from economists and HMRC is that the majority of the benefit of a stamp duty cut last time around, in ’08-’09, accrued to the buyers.
As the chairman of the all-party group on hospitality and tourism, I warmly thank the Chancellor for his announcements today: thank you for listening to the sector and for what you have delivered, which will undoubtedly save tens of thousands of jobs and thousands of businesses. The Chancellor has done his bit, and businesses across the country have done theirs in getting ready to make our bars, pubs, restaurants and hotels safe to welcome customers. Does he share my view that what we now need is the British people to do their bit—to get out and spend money in our bars and restaurants—and will he join me in inviting everyone to come to Cornwall this summer?
Let’s hope there’s sun in August.
There are fewer greater champions of the tourism and hospitality industry than my hon. Friend, and I know he will be pleased about today’s announcements. He is absolutely right that our local businesses in all our constituencies have worked unbelievably hard over the past few weeks to adapt how they do business, to invest in new things, and to make their premises safe for us, and that is why today we introduced the “eat out to help out” discount. We can all play our part in supporting these businesses and protecting these jobs.
As a former employment Minister in Northern Ireland, I welcome the Barnett consequentials that allow us to shape our own local response around youth unemployment, apprenticeships and traineeships, but what analysis has the Treasury done of where redundancies have been occurring and where they are likely to occur over the coming months? Surely that information should guide the use of that £9 billion for the furlough bonus to be more targeted around those sectors that are going to face problems for longer, but which have sustainable futures, such as aerospace and the creative industries.
We have published breakdowns of the furlough population by region, constituency and age to give a sense of the types of people who are affected. One thing that comes out of that is the importance of rural and coastal communities being particularly impacted by numbers of people on furlough. That is because they are disproportionately reliant on the hospitality and tourism sectors, which is why today’s interventions are targeted and will make the biggest difference to the greatest number of people.
In addition to the misery that covid has brought to our constituencies, over 46 constituencies, such as mine on the River Severn, also face devastation from flooding earlier this year—a double whammy for our local businesses. The River Severn Partnership has been formed in conjunction with all the councils down the River Severn and the support of local MPs. I have been led to believe by the Environment Agency that an announcement is imminent on additional support for the River Severn Partnership in order to secure a more holistic solution to the management of this river. Does the Chancellor agree that when it comes to the recovery of our economy, making sure that our constituencies are not repeatedly flooded is an important aspect of that? I very much hope so.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is something the Committee on Climate Change also mentioned, which is why in the Budget we doubled the investment that we put into flood defences. That was the right thing to do. It will build resilience in our communities and protect our natural environment. I do not know the specifics of the timing of the announcement that he alludes to, but I am happy to go away and take a look at it. I know how important it is to him and his constituents that we are able to protect them from the devastating flooding that we have seen in recent years.
Disabled people and charities are concerned about the lack of support available to enable high-risk individuals to return to work safely when the shielding programme ends. Ministers have said they expect employers to do the right thing and ensure that workplaces are covid secure. Where it is impossible for an employer to do this, individuals could be forced to put their health at risk just to make ends meet. Will the Government consider extending the full job retention scheme for those who are not able to return to work safely?
Based on the medical advice, it has been determined that the shielding population can return to work safely after the end of the month. That is already clear and has been announced. We have published extensive guidance and guidelines for workplaces to make them safe, so people can take comfort from that. If there are more things that we need to do, I am sure the hon. Lady will send them to the Business Secretary for the workplaces, or indeed to me, and we will happily take a look at them.
On behalf of the many businesses in South Dorset, may I thank my right hon. Friend for the furlough scheme and welcome his statement today? Surely our aim is to help many in a struggling private sector because, as I am sure he agrees and as the Opposition need continually to be reminded, it is they who generate the jobs and prosperity that we need, as well as the tax that pays for our public services.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is, in the long term, the market economy that will provide the growth and prosperity we need. It will provide the jobs that we need, but it is important that we provide support to those businesses in the short term, given the disruption they have faced, and I know his local businesses and many others will welcome the jobs retention bonus to help reward and incentivise them to do the right thing, stand by their workers at this time and bring them back, and look forward to a brighter future.
On 25 June, a Treasury direction in relation to the coronavirus job retention scheme made it clear:
“Integral to the purpose of the CJRS”
is that the grant
“is used by the employer to continue the employment of employees”.
Will the Chancellor therefore confirm that British Airways would be liable to pay back any taxpayers’ money used to furlough staff the company chose to put on notice of redundancy during that furlough period?
Procedures are in place for any employee to talk to HMRC if they believe that they themselves have been the victim of fraud or that the company for which they work has not acted in a way in keeping with the guidance. I urge any employees of any company who feel that that has happened to take up the matter via the HMRC hotline, the details of which are online.
First, I thank the Chancellor for, as far as I can work out, subsidising me to go down the pub; that is very welcome indeed. I also thank him for the effect that his announcement about tourism VAT will have on hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs in my constituency of Weston-Super-Mare. May I suggest to him that over the medium term, the best guarantee of jobs and employment has to be to have competitive businesses? I therefore urge him to consider, over the more medium term, sharpening our competition laws and opening up our market economy to tougher competition, as the best long-term guarantee of employment for everybody.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Just to clarify: the “eat out to help out” discount will not apply to alcohol, but 90-something per cent. of pubs serve food, so my hon. Friend can still go to the pub and enjoy that. He is absolutely right about competition policy: it is important that we have dynamic markets in this country. We need dynamic competition to create jobs and productivity in order to get the outcomes that we want. I am happy to talk to him—I know he has expertise in this policy area—to get his thoughts about things we can do to update and turbo-charge our competition policy to make sure it is fit, especially for the digital age.