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Support for Businesses: Covid-19

Volume 682: debated on Tuesday 20 October 2020

What fiscal steps his Department is taking to support businesses affected by the covid-19 outbreak. (907764)

What fiscal steps his Department is taking to support businesses in sectors that remain subject to covid-19 restrictions. (907778)

The Government recognise that the pandemic has caused extreme disruption to the economy. That is why we have delivered one of the most comprehensive and generous support packages anywhere in the world, worth over £190 billion.

I recognise the enormous amount of support that has been given to businesses in Crewe and Nantwich. I have spoken to many that would not have survived without it, and I know the pressure on public finances. But hospitality businesses such as the one I visited, Giovanni’s in Crewe, will really struggle with the 10 pm curfew and the ban on household mixing. Can the Government look again at what we can do for businesses that might technically be allowed to open but will struggle under those circumstances?

My hon. Friend is right that there has been disruption to businesses in tier 2 areas. That is why my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has cut VAT from 20% to 5% and extended that to 31 March and also introduced a 12-month business rates holiday.

Over the last few days, businesses across Burnley and Padiham, from bookkeepers to bars and pubs, have had to close as the county of Lancashire has entered tier 3 restrictions. While it is welcome that those businesses are getting Government support through the extension of furlough and business grants, there are many more in the supply chain that will be equally impacted because their end suppliers are not there. Could my right hon. Friend set out what measures are available to support them over the next couple of months?

As a Lancastrian myself, I am acutely aware of the impact on the county of Lancashire, which is why my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government negotiated the additional business support. That builds on the measures set out by the Chancellor to support businesses not just through the job support scheme, but through the furlough bonus.

It is not just businesses in tiers 2 and 3 that have been impacted; in tier 1, some sectors are still unable to trade, suffering from a total loss of business. Does my right hon. Friend agree with the head of the IMF that

“now is not yet the time to balance the books”,

and will he consider extending support to businesses that still cannot work in these times?

My right hon. Friend is right about the pressure on businesses in tier 1 as well. That is why, in the package the Chancellor has set out, has been the extension of loan facilities to help those businesses with their cash flow. In the south-east region, which my right hon. Friend represents, the total is some £0.5 billion of support.

Many thousands of small businesses have already benefited from the measures that my right hon. Friend and his colleagues have put in place. As we move forward, may I urge him to keep a small business focus, particularly for small brewers? Duty levels are a crucial part of their business viability, and may I urge him to keep small breweries’ relief in place, as it is helping to safeguard the future of many small breweries not just in Hampshire but throughout the United Kingdom?

My right hon. Friend makes an extremely valid point about the impact on that sector. That is why the Treasury is reviewing small breweries’ relief and, indeed, the Exchequer Secretary has taken forward reforms, at the industry’s request, to fix issues in the current relief design.