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Covid-19: Economy Update

Volume 682: debated on Thursday 22 October 2020

Let me speak first to the people of Liverpool, Lancashire, South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, and other areas moving into or already living under heightened health restrictions. I understand your frustration. People need to know that this is not forever; these are temporary restrictions to help control the spread of the virus. There are difficult days and weeks ahead, but we will get through this together. People are not on their own. We have an economic plan that will protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people, wherever they live and whatever their situation. Just as we have throughout this crisis, we will listen and respond to people’s concerns as the situation demands.

I make no apology for responding to changing circumstances, so today we go further. The Prime Minister was right to outline a balanced approach to tackling coronavirus, taking the difficult decisions to save lives and keep the R rate down while doing everything in our power to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people. The evidence is clear: a regional, tiered approach is the right way to control the spread of the virus. My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury yesterday set out for the House our economic support for businesses that are legally required to close. We are providing: billions of pounds of support for local authorities and a grant scheme for affected businesses, worth up to half a billion pounds every month. Of course, we also expanded the job support scheme, with the Government covering the cost of paying two thirds of people’s normal wages if their employer had been legally required to close. For areas in local alert level 3, we have made available over £1 billion of generous up-front grants, so that local authorities can support businesses, protect jobs and aid economic recovery in a fair and transparent way. That is our plan to support closed businesses.

But it is clear that even businesses that can stay open are facing profound economic uncertainty. This morning I met business and union representatives, including those from the hospitality industry, to discuss the new restrictions. Their message was clear. The impact of the health restrictions on their businesses is worse than they hoped. They recognise the importance of the tiered restrictions in controlling the spread of the virus, but a significant fall in consumer demand is causing profound economic harm to their industry. It is clear that they and other open but struggling businesses require further support, so I am taking three further steps today.

First, I am introducing a new grant scheme for businesses impacted by tier 2 restrictions, even if they are not legally closed. We will fund local authorities to provide businesses in their area with direct cash grants. It will be up to local authorities to decide how best to distribute the grants, giving them the necessary flexibility to respond to local economic circumstances, but I am providing enough funding to give every business premises in the hospitality, leisure and accommodation sectors a direct grant worth up to £2,100 for every month for which tier 2 restrictions apply. That is equivalent to 70% of the value of the grants available for closed businesses in tier 3. Crucially, I am pleased to confirm that these grants will be retrospective; businesses in any area that has been under enhanced restrictions can backdate their grants to August.

I have been listening to and engaging with colleagues around the House, including—but not only—my hon. Friends the Members for Heywood and Middleton (Chris Clarkson), for Hyndburn (Sara Britcliffe), for Penistone and Stocksbridge (Miriam Cates), for South Ribble (Katherine Fletcher), for Burnley (Antony Higginbotham), for Keighley (Robbie Moore), for Cheadle (Mary Robinson), for Leigh (James Grundy) and for Southport (Damien Moore), and I am pleased to confirm that the backdating of the new grants means that we are being more generous to the businesses and places that have been under higher restrictions for longer. Let no one say that this Government are not committed to supporting the people and businesses in every region and nation of the United Kingdom.

Secondly, to protect jobs we are making the job support scheme more generous for employers. If businesses are legally required to close, as we have already outlined, the Government will cover the full cost of employers paying two thirds of people’s salary where they cannot work for a week or more. For businesses that can open, it is now clear that the impact of restrictions on them is more significant than they had hoped, particularly for those in the hospitality sector. I am therefore making two changes to the short-time work scheme to make it easier for those businesses to keep staff on, rather than make them redundant: first, under the original scheme, employees had to work for 33% of their normal hours, whereas now we will ask them to work only 20% of those hours; and secondly, the employer contribution for the hours not worked will not be 33% as originally planned, or even 20% as it is in the October furlough scheme, but will reduce to 5%.

The scheme will apply to eligible businesses in all alert levels, so that businesses that are not closed, but which face higher restrictions in places such as Liverpool, Lancashire, South Yorkshire, and Greater Manchester, as well as the devolved nations, will be able to access greater support. These changes mean more employers can access the scheme and more jobs will be protected. We have made this one of the most generous versions of a short-time work scheme anywhere in the world. It is better for businesses, better for jobs and better for the economy.

Thirdly, as we increase the contribution we are making towards employees’ wages, I am increasing our contribution to the incomes of the self-employed as well. Today we are doubling the next round of self-employed income support from 20% to 40% of people’s incomes, increasing the maximum grant to £3,750. So far through this crisis, we have provided more than £13 billion of support to self-employed workers. Sole traders, small businesses and self-employed people are the dynamic entrepreneurial heart of our economy, and this Government are on their side.

In conclusion, a wage subsidy for closed businesses, a wage subsidy for open businesses, cash grants of over £2,000 a month for tier 2 businesses and up to £3,000 a month for closed businesses, support for local authorities, support for the self-employed, support for people’s jobs and incomes, all on top of over £200 billion of support since March. This is our plan—a plan for jobs, for businesses, for the regions, for the economy, for the country. A plan to support the British people. I commend this statement to the House.

For months, we have urged the Chancellor to get ahead of the looming unemployment crisis and act to save jobs. Instead we have had a patchwork of poor ideas rushed out at the last minute: a bonus scheme that will pay £2.6 billion to businesses that do not need it; a job support scheme that simply was not going to work for the majority of businesses under pressure and that we said at the beginning did not do enough to incentivise employers to keep staff on; and an approach to support for areas entering tier 3 that has been nothing short of shambolic.

This has had real consequences. The deadline for large-scale redundancies came and went before the Chancellor announced the job support scheme, the deadline for small business redundancies passed before he realised that he needed to amend it, and many parts of our country have spent months under tier 2 restrictions without adequate support. How many jobs have been lost because of that inaction? Over a million have already gone. In the last quarter, we saw a record rise in redundancies. The Chancellor could have done much more if he had acted sooner.

Now we see yet another last-minute move. Let me ask the Chancellor. What has changed that means that this is the right thing to do now but it was not when parts of the north and midlands entered tier 2 many weeks ago? Does he agree with his own Mayor for the west midlands who said that

“this particular point was just one that was completely missed”.

Completely missed was the need for support for tier 2 areas. The Chancellor has only caught up and listened to the anxiety of workers and businesses when it looks like these restrictions will be affecting London and the west midlands. Will he apologise to those who have already lost their jobs and seen their businesses slip through their fingers in those areas that have not had that support until now?

The Chancellor referred to £1 billion of generous up-front grants for businesses and jobs provided in a “fair and transparent way”. There has not been a system of up-front grants for those in the north and midlands, and the process has not been fair and transparent for businesses and workers. To be honest, it is nothing short of insulting to describe what we have seen over the past few weeks as fair and transparent. The Government still have not published the formula that has been used for business support in tier 3 areas, and they still seem addicted to the approach where they say they are in negotiations with different areas but the reality is something completely different. When will he come clean about that support and the formula that is being used?

Will the Chancellor also make good on his Government’s claim that the JSS extension will be topped up to at least 80% for workers facing hardship? I know this is difficult for the Government. I see that the Prime Minister is sitting next to the Chancellor; he thought it would be topped up for everyone to 93%. I think that is what he said. Clearly the Government are not very sure on this, so maybe I can spell it out for them. That support does not amount to 80% for huge numbers of workers facing hardship—for example, those who have modest savings or who are excluded for other reasons, as so many are—and they have to wait five weeks anyway before they get that help. That could be fixed speedily by the Government, but they are refusing to do so. Does the Chancellor also recognise that those fixes for social security must apply to the self-employed, for whom an increase to just 40% of their previous income will not stave off hardship—and that is not to mention those who have been excluded throughout.

This is becoming like a long-running television show: the winter economy plan, series 3. But the twist is that it did not last the winter, it did not do enough to help the economy and it was not a plan. We have to get ahead of this crisis instead of always running to keep up. That is why Labour has called for a national circuit breaker to give us a chance to reset and to fix the broken test, trace and isolate system, but time is running out to implement that circuit breaker so that it includes half term and maximises the opportunity it brings. Will the Chancellor change course?

This is the third time I have come to this House in several weeks to outline additional support for the economy, jobs and livelihoods. It is a sign of the seriousness of the economic situation we face, and I will never make any apology for acting fast as the moment demands and as the health situation evolves. But at the heart of this debate is a more fundamental difference on the right approach for protecting livelihoods and lives. We on this side of the House believe it is right to be honest about the hard choices we confront and about the fact that there is no easy cost-free answer. With every restriction comes difficulty, and that is why we are doing everything we can to strike that balance between saving lives and protecting livelihoods.

We have made progress, and that is why we are now able to operate a localised, tiered approach. That is why, even now, in the most affected areas we are striving to keep businesses open, and that is why the support I have announced today is as generous as it is, to give as many businesses and employers as possible the opportunity to keep working and keep trading. All this progress and all this hope are being put at risk by Labour Members’ repeated calls for a damaging, blunt, national lockdown. They will not say for how long, but they have already admitted that it would roll on with no clear end in sight. They will not say how many jobs would be lost through such a national lockdown. They claim that their approach—an indefinite series of national on-off lockdowns—would be better for the economy. I am afraid the facts simply do not support that conclusion.

The policies we have outlined today strike that balance. They support our approach—a localised, regional approach that is striving to get that balance between protecting jobs and protecting livelihoods. They will support people in every region and nation of this United Kingdom. They will protect people’s jobs. They will support their incomes and provide their families with security and with hope for the future.

Throughout this crisis, I have always stood ready to work with all hon. Members in every business group, industry group and trade union to work through solutions and deal with this crisis. While the situation evolves and the challenges change, my approach will not—to build consensus, to reach out to those with different views, to work past tribal political point scoring and to support our country through this moment of immense challenge so that we come out on the other side a stronger, more United Kingdom.

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Once again, he has listened to businesses. When it comes to lockdowns—I have to say that I agree with the remarks he has just made about circuit breakers—may I draw his attention to the minutes of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies meeting on 21 September, which state:

“Policy makers will need to consider analysis of economic impacts and the associated harms alongside this epidemiological assessment. This work is underway under the auspices of the Chief Economist.”?

Will my right hon. Friend update the House on the progress that has been made by the chief economist? Does my right hon. Friend agree that, to ensure a balanced public debate, the chief economist or a similar economic expert should join the epidemiologists for No. 10 covid press briefings?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Opposition referenced the SAGE minutes but seemed to forget about that part of them, which rightly struck a balance between protecting jobs and protecting lives. He can rest assured that the Government will always do that. I may spare the chief economist the pleasure of attending the press conferences, but my right hon. Friend is right to say that that analysis is taking place. I have presented some of it at the press conferences, and I am happy to talk more about it at the Dispatch Box.

Fundamentally, my right hon. Friend knows, as I do, that our economy faces enormous strain. Almost three quarters of a million people have already lost their jobs, and, sadly, more will. That is why a regional, targeted approach is the right one. It allows us both to protect lives and to protect livelihoods.

This is the third statement from the Chancellor in the space of a month, but that is not a sign of good management; it is a sign of panic and chaos from this Government. None of this should be coming as a surprise to them. It is telling that the Government have put out more under embargo today than they gave out to the Opposition spokespeople—a sign of real disrespect to the other parties in this House.

We in the Opposition have called for more certainty and a plan, because the evidence is that we are not coming out of this coronavirus crisis any time soon. The Chancellor has not listened or responded, so I ask again for three things. I ask him to listen and to act; to extend furlough and the self-employment income support scheme at the rates from earlier in the year to protect jobs and livelihoods; and to fill the gaps and help those who are excluded completely from his support schemes. He knows that that is a problem, and he is choosing to ignore it.

I ask the Chancellor to keep the £20 uplift to universal credit and extend it to legacy benefits, including for those who have disabilities. Two thirds of the minimum wage is not enough to live on, and not everybody is entitled to universal credit. Huge gaps remain: carers, asylum seekers, those with disabilities and those with no recourse to public funds have all been left behind by this Government, with a cold, long winter ahead.

Significant sectors such as culture and the arts, hospitality, food and drink wholesalers, tourism, transport and aviation, and many more are not going back to normal any time soon, and they deserve Government support. Will the Chancellor align his support scheme with the Scottish Government’s public health proposals and those of the other devolved institutions?

UK Government support for Scotland does not go far enough to mitigate the local lockdowns that we have faced. The UK Government must now provide clarity on the Barnett consequentials to help us to plan and protect businesses and our people. The Scottish Government need this now—today—not in three months’ time, not eventually and not at some point in the future. We need it now, and the Chancellor should give clarity on it today so that the Scottish Government can act.

The Chancellor’s scheme has been full of holes. Time and time again, he comes here in a knee-jerk reaction, full of panic, rather than planning ahead for a situation that we told him would arise. This is nowhere near “whatever it takes”. I ask him to go further today, and to work with all the Opposition parties and the devolved institutions to get this right.

When we outlined the original job support scheme, it was actually very warmly welcomed not only by various business groups, including the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses and the chambers of commerce, but by the trade unions, because everyone at that moment recognised that it was a significant and generous intervention to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people. But the situation has changed. The health restrictions are having an impact, particularly in the hospitality sector, which the hon. Member for Oxford East (Anneliese Dodds) mentioned. That is why we have taken the steps that we have today. We are providing the certainty that she asked for, as this scheme will last for at least six months through to next spring. There is certainty over that. The grants we have outlined today will work on a monthly basis for as long as businesses are either in tier 2 restrictions or are closed under tier 3. Businesses can plan on that basis.

With regard to the Barnett consequentials, the Government will always ensure that people will benefit from this support wherever they are living in the United Kingdom. That is why we have provided an up-front guarantee to devolved nations worth £14 billion, which will help them also to plan at what is, I understand, a difficult time for everyone.

I am really pleased that the Chancellor has listened and shown that this Government will always support the north. I am delighted that these tier 2 retrospective measures, such as the expansion of the job support scheme and the business grants, will make a massive difference to people living in Glossopdale in my constituency who have been under tier 2. On the business grants, may I urge the Chancellor to make certain that the money and the guidance on how that money can be used is made available to councils as soon as possible so that the businesses who need it can get it urgently and help to save jobs?

My hon. Friend has been right to champion the situation for his local businesses. I know that they will warmly welcome this. I can give him the assurance that we will work as quickly as possible to provide the guidance. As I said, the grant value will be calculated on the number of hospitality, leisure and accommodation business premises, scaled by their rateable value. Added to that will be a 5% discretionary top-up, and then the local authority can use its discretion to allocate the money as it sees fit for its local area.

It seems the Chancellor’s much-vaunted winter economic plan has not even lasted the autumn. His tinkering with the system demonstrates that he has been behind the curve all along, and it has sowed hardship and confusion. Why is the support he offered in March not being replicated as the virus comes back and we are suffering a second wave in October? Why is he trying to achieve local lockdowns on the cheap?

I would not consider that providing £200 billion of total support could ever be accused of doing anything on the cheap. That money has gone to support public services like the NHS, and people’s jobs, livelihoods and businesses. I commit to this House that we will continue to do everything that is required, and continue to adapt and evolve as the circumstances demand.

I thank my right hon. Friend for bringing forward this package, for listening and for acting in the interests of the economy. Is it not essential that we align the interests of business and the economy with the interests of controlling the virus, rather than let those become polar opposites in argument with each other? Can we perhaps draw back from some of the partisanship that has soured relations over the past few days, because that does not do any good for public confidence in how we are all tackling this very difficult and wearing crisis?

Those are wise words from my hon. Friend. He is right to highlight the importance, in this House and elsewhere, of our adopting a constructive and collegiate approach to tackling what is clearly a national crisis, and one that we will get through. We will get through it by working together and emerging stronger on the other side.

From tomorrow, Wales will begin a 17-day firebreak lockdown to help to control the spread of the virus. During that period, there will be two support schemes from the Treasury as one ends and another one starts. The First Minister of Wales has asked the Chancellor to allow Welsh businesses to access the job support scheme a week early. He has refused, so a further request has been made to ease the rules on furlough for one week to allow people to get that support. We need to ensure that bureaucracy is reduced to allow Welsh businesses to protect jobs, so will the Chancellor be flexible, and what support, specifically, will he give to Welsh businesses?

We have tried to reduce the bureaucracy by making sure that we do not have overlapping schemes at the same time. That would only increase complexity for businesses. We have endeavoured in all ways to provide support on a UK-wide basis, as I have said in conversations with the First Minister and others. We are doing this on a UK-wide basis in the knowledge that devolved nations are making individual decisions that ultimately the UK Government and UK taxpayer will be funding. That situation will work only if people can work in a constructive and aligned spirit, which is what I have said to all, and I very much hope that that can be continued in the coming months.

I greatly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. The measures he has announced are significant and generous, delivered in a manner that is fast becoming this Chancellor’s hallmark. May I thank him for hearing the powerful arguments advanced by the west midlands Mayor, Andy Street, especially in respect of the hospitality industry, and for addressing the serious business jeopardy that did lie between tiers 2 and 3?

My right hon. Friend is right that the Mayor, Andy Street, has been vocal, and rightly so, in highlighting the particular impact of the tier 2 restrictions on the hospitality industry. That helped inform our decision to act today, with speed and scale, to provide support to those businesses, which will be warmly welcomed in his area.

I wonder if the Chancellor regrets ruling out of hand the SNP’s calls in the spring for a universal basic income. Will he calculate what impact a minimum income guarantee like that would have had for employers, employees and the self-employed alike, and what the overall cost would be, compared with the billions he is finding for all these myriad schemes? Will he calculate the long-term costs of millions more on universal credit and other social security benefits, with the consequences of that on the economy and society?

The Government do not agree with the universal basic income. It would not be right to provide money to millions of people who have absolutely no need of it; that would just detract our resources, which are targeted on those in most need, as has been our approach throughout the crisis.

With regard to universal credit and welfare, the Government believe that the best way to help people is to provide them with work and opportunity. That is why all our efforts are targeted on providing that support to protect as many jobs as possible while recognising that we cannot protect every single job. That is why we have also strengthened our safety net, with billions invested in universal credit and local housing allowance and, crucially, funding provided for new opportunities through training and apprenticeships to help people find fresh opportunity and a brighter future.

Although I welcome the Chancellor’s statement, the imposition of tier 3 restrictions in Lancashire will inevitably mean that many of my constituents will be significantly worse off. While the additional funding for Lancashire, including the £42 million package, is welcome, there will still be far too many businesses who cannot access the Chancellor’s direct support. Hundreds of hotels in my constituency stand to lose thousands in lost bookings, but, because they have not been mandated to close, they will not be entitled to the additional support packages. Will he take steps to ensure that businesses such as small hotels, which are completely unviable under tier 3 restrictions, can access grants and the extended job support scheme?

I am happy to tell my hon. Friend that the money provided to Lancashire, as it entered tier 3, for overall business support can be used precisely to help the businesses he rightly mentions that are being affected by the restrictions, even though they are open. That funding is there for the county council and other local authorities to do that. The enhanced generosity of the job support scheme I have announced will go a long way to helping those businesses as well, making it easy and affordable for them to get the wage support they need from the Government to protect as many jobs as possible.

While I appreciate yet another partial U-turn from the Chancellor, what the country needs now more than anything is leadership, clarity and confidence that the Government are in control rather than this constant reaction and a patchwork with every hallmark of having been written on the back of a cigarette packet that we are getting from this Government. I plead with the Chancellor to consider going the whole way and keep the job retention scheme going after the end of October, let the devolved nations know what consequentials they will have—they need to plan as well—and give the country what he promised. He said he would do whatever it takes; this is not it.

The hon. Lady asks for an extension of the job retention scheme. It is worth drawing her attention to the fact that the employer contribution to the job retention scheme in October is 20%, whereas under the new, more generous, job support scheme it has been reduced to 5%. That is more generous and will protect more jobs and more people’s livelihoods.

I welcome the Chancellor’s commitment to helping the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; we much value the money that has come forward. May I speak for the distribution sector, which daily delivers perishable foods not only to care homes, the NHS and schools, but to pubs, cafés and restaurants that are closed in tier 2 and 3 locations? The costs for distribution remain the same for jobs, vehicles and businesses. What help can those in the distribution sector access as a result of the Chancellor’s announcement?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point about the supply chains of those who serve the hospitality industry. I draw his attention to two things. The tier 2 grant programme that I announced today will contain a 5% discretionary top-up, which local authorities can use at their own discretion to support local businesses; they may choose to use some of it to address the needs that he outlines. Also, we have not targeted the enhanced generosity of the job support scheme purely at the hospitality industry, or indeed purely at businesses operating in tier 2 areas, because we recognise the complexity of the supply chains that he mentions. The very generous job support scheme will be available for all businesses in all parts of the country, regardless of sector, which I think will make an enormous difference to the businesses that he mentions.

They say that good things come in small packages. Well, my right hon. Friend might be small, but he has delivered a huge package of job-saving, business-boosting support that will benefit the people of Stockton South and people right across the country. I thank the myth, the man, the legend who is my right hon. Friend for this life-saving support for businesses in my patch. Will he continue to review and react promptly to the ever-changing situation in his characteristically charismatic way?

I am very grateful for my hon. Friend’s kind—I think—compliments; he knows that he is a large part of the reason why I am in this House, so he can take as much of the credit or blame for that as is required. I can give him the reassurance that he seeks. I have been delighted to visit his local businesses with him, and I know that he is an enormous champion for his local community, high streets and businesses. He works very hard on their behalf, and I know that the measures that we have announced today will make a difference to him and make sure that his community continues to be a thriving place.

Alan Gent runs the Petersgate Tap in my constituency. He employs five members of staff and the impact of the pandemic was already choking his business. He is not currently paying business rates, but his private landlord has rejected his request for a rent holiday, and now that Stockport is in tier 3, he cannot stay open. The support currently offered is woefully inadequate. Will the Chancellor now commit to addressing the real hardship of those who work in Stockport’s pubs, bars and hospitality sector?

I have every sympathy with the hon. Gentleman’s constituent—I know what a difficult time it must be for him and his team and for those in similar industries—but actually I think that the support provided already will help him. The pub will be eligible for a business rate cash grant of up to £3,000 per month that he remains closed under tier 3 restrictions; across the UK, it will vary by place, but that should largely cover the vast majority of small and medium-sized pubs’ rental bills for that time. Of course, the five team members that the hon. Gentleman mentions could be put on the expanded job support scheme at essentially no cost to the employer. Those employees’ wages will be protected and covered by the Government.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his statement and thank him for all he is doing. Harrogate and Knaresborough is at the medium level, tier 1, but areas surrounding it are in the higher tier 2 category. Businesses have noted that with concern and are worried about what might happen should the position change and our tier be increased. The enhanced package will therefore be welcomed; I welcome it strongly. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the reduction in employer costs will result in more jobs being saved?

As ever, I thank my hon. Friend for his thoughtful comments. He is right. That is why we took the decision to make this a universal approach, with enhanced generosity, to deal with the situation he mentioned of businesses operating in proximity to other areas under restrictions—those supply chains. This is a universal, generous approach, designed, as he said, with a lower employer contribution, to make sure that we can protect and support as many jobs as possible.

Back in March, the Chancellor said that those in the exhibition sector with physical properties and business rates would be eligible for the cash grant, but when they approached their local councils they found out that that was not true and that, because they did not open their premises to the public, they were not eligible. Exhibition companies in my constituency have received minimal support and are really struggling, and it looks like conferences and mass events will not go ahead until a vaccine is in place. It might not offer a photo opportunity like being a waiter at Wagamama, but may I urge the Chancellor to meet exhibition companies, including those in my constituency, and hear how much they are suffering?

The hon. Lady might make disparaging comments about photo opportunities at Wagamama, but that was precisely because that sector employs 2 million people who are disproportionately lower paid, from ethnic minorities, younger and women. It is right that we focus our support on those in the hospitality sector, because they are particularly impacted by the restrictions.

The hon. Lady is right to highlight the plight of those in the events and exhibition industry. I am very sympathetic to that. Those businesses with business premises will receive business rates relief if they are in those categories. Indeed, the categories for the tier 2 grants that we have announced today will include hospitality, leisure and accommodation, under the Valuation Office Agency codes. Exhibition and events spaces are typically included in that, so they will be included in the calculation of the grant value provided to local authorities.

Business leaders I speak to, both in Arundel and South Downs and nationally, recognise that tailoring our response to the circumstances is a strength, not a weakness. They also know that there are no easy choices, but the worst of all worlds would be a blunt national circuit break, which would cost rather than save jobs.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right on his last point. We are lucky to benefit from the considerable business experience that he brings to this place. He is right that, in business as in public policy, it is right that we evolve and adapt to the circumstances. That is what we have done today, but it is right that we do it in a targeted, tiered way, not with the blunt national instrument that, as he rightly says, would unnecessarily cause hardship and cost jobs.

I understand that at half-past 4 today a Government Minister will meet local leaders in Nottingham to put us into the third tier. We had to find that out through the media, because local Members of Parliament have not been invited, which is saddening. If measures need to be taken to protect the health and wellbeing of our community, we will of course support them, but they will have a profound impact on our local economy. If Nottingham moves into tier 3 this afternoon, what package of support will the Chancellor put in place to protect our jobs and businesses?

I know that it is a difficult time for the hon. Gentleman’s constituents, and he is right that they should engage constructively. I am glad that he and his local area are doing that. There will be a variety of support available. Closed businesses will receive grants of up to £3,000 a month, paid centrally. Obviously, similar to other areas, there will be a negotiation and a conversation with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, which will result in an amount of support being provided for businesses. Of course, as the hon. Gentleman will know, there is also a formula to provide the local authority with support of up to £8 per head, and that money is used to enhance local compliance enforcement and contact tracing. I know that those conversations are ongoing and I very much hope that they will have a constructive outcome.

I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement and thank him for supporting people and businesses across Essex. Already more than 15,000 people have benefited from the furlough scheme, and more than 5,000 from the self-employment income support scheme. These additional measures to support those who have been adversely affected by the recent introduction of tier 2 in Essex are welcome. Will he confirm that he will continue to do whatever it takes to support our country and our economy?

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. He mentioned some numbers, and that is ultimately what it is about. We stand in this place and talk about many billions of pounds and policy, but often it is about the people and the jobs and livelihoods that we are trying to protect. I am delighted to hear that the 20,000 people he mentioned have benefited from the support that this Government have put in place, and I can give him and them the assurance that we will continue to do exactly that.

As Wales enters a firebreak lockdown tomorrow evening, there are concerns that there will be a week-long gap in support between the end of the furlough scheme and the introduction of the new wage support scheme. It would be good if the Chancellor could consider giving Welsh businesses early access to that scheme. May I ask him to clarify the eligibility criteria, in particular whether seasonal workers will be eligible for support?

There will not be any gap in support, I am pleased to tell the hon. Gentleman, because, as he knows, the CJRS runs all the way to the end of this month and the job support scheme starts on 1 November. There will be complete coverage and no interruption. We provided Barnett funding on the grants from the moment I announced them, so that is also available to the Welsh Government. With regard to the specific treatment of seasonal workers and the computation of the reference earnings, that is set out in the guidance for the CJRS and that will remain consistent in the new job support scheme.

In his statement on 8 July, my right hon. Friend said his measures would be always

“unencumbered by dogma”


“driven always by the simple desire to do what is right.”—[Official Report, 8 July 2020; Vol. 678, c. 937.]

He was right then and he is right today in announcing these measures. I noted the extension in support for the self-employed, which will now extend all the way through to April. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that he is also working with the Health Secretary to ensure that we are doing whatever we can to get self-employed people and everyone else into work and back to work without restrictions as quickly as possible?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The self-employed are a part of the entrepreneurial side of our economy that will help to drive our recovery. It is right that they receive support and I am proud that the support we have put in place—over £13 billion benefiting almost 3 million people—is one of the most comprehensive and generous packages of support for the self-employed. Ultimately, however, his last point is the one we should focus on. The best way to help people is to allow them to get on and do the job they love doing, and allow them to trade.

I am not going to quibble; I think all of this is good and I am delighted that it is being announced today. However, I just want to say to the Chancellor that some of the measures he has announced apply across the whole of the UK and some apply only in England. That provides a lot of confusion for a lot of ordinary people out in the country who do not watch what we are doing in here every day and do not follow every element of the minutiae. Will he clarify precisely how much of the money he is announcing today is really new money to be spent in England through local authorities on the new business grants in tier 2 areas? How much extra money—I do not want to know about the earlier £14 billion for the devolved nations—because of Barnett consequentials is now coming to Wales?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. He is right and I can appreciate the confusion. We try to do things on a UK-wide level, but obviously not everything will be on that level. I cannot give him a precise figure, because these are demand-led schemes. What we have tried to do is provide upfront funding guarantees in advance of that demand being drawn down in England and the Barnett consequentials being delivered. We true those up on a regular basis—I am happy to write to him with further details—but we try to provide the funding to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in advance of that demand actually occurring in England. I think that is a better and more generous approach for the devolved nations.

I welcome the Chancellor’s statement. Keeping a link to viable jobs is absolutely crucial, so does my right hon. Friend agree that it is better to keep businesses open and functioning where possible with support, rather than locking down nationally, multiple times?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. When I talk to both businesses and employees, they say that what they want is to be able to go to the jobs they love. They want to be able to do that. They want to be able to serve customers and they want to be able to welcome us all back to their restaurants, pubs, cafés and so on. She is right that we have to strike that balance. I think the approach that the Government have taken does that—it strikes that balance. The support we have put in place today will enable as many of those people to remain in their job working hard and hopefully have a fulfilling future to come.

It is good to see the Chancellor has found the magic money tree of Tory myth and given it another shake, but the money needs to go to the self-employed, the smallest businesses and the poorest households. He will have total control of VAT soon. Will he look at cutting tax on household essentials? Will he target the support for job retention schemes at the smallest businesses, so they can continue to employ people, rather than offsetting the wage bill of some supermarkets? Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose are not feeling the pinch the way that small enterprises are feeling it. Will he send the cash where it will do the most good?

The hon. Lady is right in saying that support should now be targeted at where it can make the most difference. That is why our approach has evolved through this crisis, and what was universal at the beginning and at the peak of the crisis has now evolved into a more targeted approach. To give one example, a difference between the job support scheme and the old furlough scheme is that now large businesses—precisely the kinds of businesses she mentioned—will not be able to access the job support scheme, especially with its new, more generous terms, unless that business is seeing revenue decline. That sensible change means that support is rightly targeted at smaller and medium-sized businesses that need our help at this difficult time, and not at the large businesses that are not seeing any change to their business model.

I do not need to tell the Chancellor about the way we are going, with the economy plunging further into a crisis. The biggest thing that businesses in my constituency tell me is that uncertainty is their biggest enemy. We have now been under extra restrictions for more than 150 days. If we go into tier 3, and given that the Chancellor does not want a planned circuit breaker, what support will he give to businesses in my constituency of Bradford West? Importantly, how long should they be prepared for uncertainty?

I am pleased to tell the hon. Lady that the tier 2 grants that I announced today will be backdated, so that her businesses and local authority will receive funding that is backdated to when they entered tier 2 restrictions. I think those grants worth up to £2,000 over a month will be of enormous support to businesses in her constituency, at what I appreciate is a difficult time.

Although Norfolk remains in tier 1, the additional support for hospitality, tourism and other businesses is welcome. As well as the short-term measures in this plan for jobs, looking longer term, will my right hon. Friend bring forward proposals in the spending review for tourism zones, including one for Norfolk and Suffolk? Will he accelerate the roll-out of gigabit broadband for businesses in North West Norfolk, so that they benefit sooner from greater connectivity?

My hon. Friend regularly reminds us all about the importance of digital connectivity in rural areas such as his, and indeed mine, and he will know, as I do, that the Government are committed to bringing both gigabit-capable broadband and mobile phone networks to all the parts of our country that otherwise might not have as strong connectivity as they would like. I know he will join me in welcoming that, as it will make an enormous difference to the local economy in his and other rural areas.

Twenty-three OECD countries had job subsidy schemes in place for a major event such as a pandemic, but unfortunately, the UK was not one of them. The Government’s piecemeal approach to the pandemic is leading many of my constituents to ask why we were so poorly prepared for it in every single way. In Oldham East and Saddleworth, unemployment has nearly doubled since March. We know now that across the country nearly 300,000 people were not eligible for social security support. A third of those people were disabled and one in 10 were from the north-west. How many low-income workers covered by this new financial package will be excluded from social security support to top up their wages?

The hon. Lady is right to say that we did not have a wage support scheme when we entered this crisis, which is why I place on record my thanks to the fantastic team of officials at the Treasury and at HMRC for acting with unbelievable speed and decisiveness in helping me to create, design, and implement these schemes in record time, enabling us to help pay the wages and protect the jobs of more than 9 million people.

Last night I had a meeting with the Hinckley business improvement district and met businesses that raised concerns about what would happen should they go into tier 2. At the time I told them that the Chancellor and the Treasury were listening, and I am pleased to welcome the support for businesses in tier 2, should my area move into that. In the spirit of listening, will the Chancellor consider providing a road map for businesses that are struggling the most, such as those running weddings, events and conferences and those in the travel industry, to try to provide some clarity and certainty going forward?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this. He has raised with me the impact on businesses in his area of a potential move into tier 2, and I hope he will be reassured by the announcements today. Travel and events are interlinked. As he and I know, we must work to find a way to allow more travel to happen. The Transport Secretary has spoken to colleagues about that. He is actively engaged in working with industry and health professionals to see what more we can do to facilitate greater ease of travel, and therefore open up travel corridors and help our events industry.

It is important that the public health and economic support measures move in harmony. Northern Ireland had to go into tighter restrictions on 16 October, ahead of other parts of the UK. The 20% employer contribution in the outgoing job retention scheme is a major challenge for employers to keep jobs. Given that the Chancellor has shown some flexibility today, will he reconsider the timescale of the new scheme and backdate the 5% employer contribution to 16 October?

Given that the grants are backdated, if that results in extra Barnett consequentials, of course that extra funding will flow to Northern Ireland, as it will to other devolved nations. With regard to the job support scheme, as I said, there will be no interruption of coverage between one scheme and the other. As the hon. Gentleman points out, the employer contribution will be significantly reduced on 1 November.

I am incredibly grateful to my right hon. Friend and the whole Treasury team for their work, and I would especially like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for East Surrey (Claire Coutinho) for her engagement on this matter. I am already receiving messages from my constituents to say that they are delighted with these schemes. Bishop Auckland landlords will be helped out by this. I just have one question: how quickly can we expect these grants to hit businesses? I know that County Durham did an exceptional job of getting them out last time, but if he could provide a timeline, I would be grateful.

I know that my hon. Friend is a proud champion of all her local pubs, judging by all her Instagram photos—I am very jealous. Having visited many of them with her during the campaign, I am glad that she is providing them with the support that they need at this difficult time. I know that these grants will make a difference. I can reassure her that we will work very quickly to get the guidance out. The funding will be available on a monthly basis; a month after the restrictions start, the funding will be there for those businesses.

The Chancellor has announced the latest package of covid measures, and we clearly face a further protracted period of the crisis, with more and more areas going into local restrictions. Given the regional packages announced for England, will the Chancellor tell us exactly what the Barnett consequentials will be, as devolved nations need to plan properly for their own mitigation measures?

I refer the hon. Gentleman to my answer to the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant). We have taken the approach of providing up-front funding guarantees to devolved nations, worth £14 billion currently, and we will update and review those regularly. In all ways, dealing with these demand-led schemes is difficult, which is why we have taken this approach, which is generous and better at providing up-front funding to devolved nations.

The Chancellor’s measures will be welcomed by the hospitality sector in London, although I hope he might have a word with the Health Secretary about the point of a 10 pm curfew if it is members of a family dining together. Will he look carefully at support for the events sector? As he knows, that sector supports not only private events but many large corporate events. We have a great number of those of the highest quality in London. There are thousands of jobs and millions of pounds of turnover involved here, but because these businesses do not serve food directly to the public from their production kitchens, they have not so far been able to benefit from the business rate relief scheme. Can we look at those loopholes that they have been falling through?

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. Where the guidance is not clear on businesses that are legally required not to open but not legally closed and therefore do not benefit from some support, we are actively looking at that and ensuring that we can fix it. Events and exhibitions are one of the VOA categories that will be included in the hospitality and leisure calculation that we use for the tier 2 grants I have announced today. More generally, the best thing we can do is try to open up more travel and, as time progresses and we can do more testing, to get life back into that sector by allowing it to get on with what it wants to do, which is to put on a fantastic events.

In March, the Government increased the basic allowances for both universal credit and working tax credit by £20 a week, but that uplift is only temporary; it will expire next April. Does the Chancellor accept that, after what we all expect to be a tough winter ahead, that will mean taking nearly £1,000 a year away from those families who really need it?

We did put in place the temporary uplift of universal credit  but, as the hon. Gentleman says, it still has five or six months to run; it will be in place to support vulnerable families throughout the difficult winter period and is there all the way until next spring.

I welcome the measures announced today. As the Chancellor will be aware, 15,400 people have benefited from the furlough scheme in South West Hertfordshire, and I applaud the sustainable and affordable approach he has adopted. Does he agree that the approach needs to remain pragmatic, with an evolution of policy, to give more certainty to our communities?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In the face of something we have never seen before—we are all grappling with how to deal with it—it is right that we remain pragmatic and flexible; it is not right to be wedded to dogma and be unwilling to change when the facts change. We will always do that, as we grapple with the health crisis and the economic crisis. We will remain flexible and nimble, but always with the same values and principles underlying what we do, which is to try to protect as many people’s jobs and livelihoods as we can.

The UK Government wax lyrical about a flexible labour market as a strength of the UK economy, but the Chancellor’s support packages have excluded millions and so many will continue to be excluded from support. So will he again look at provisions for the millions who still fall through the holes in his schemes? If he will not do the right thing by these excluded groups, will he please release the resources to devolved Administrations to allow them to do so?

Our support for the self-employed remains among the most comprehensive and generous anywhere in the world, and is now approximating almost £13 billion for almost 3 million people. Barnett consequentials of more than £13 billion or £14 billion have been provided to the devolved nations and, if the Scottish Government choose to do something different with that, that is of course up to them.

In the past six months, the number of people forced to claim unemployment benefit in Barnsley has doubled. If the Chancellor is saying that livelihoods have to be balanced against lives, should the people of Barnsley expect unemployment to rise, the death rate to rise, or both?

It is exactly because we need to adopt a balanced approach that we have taken the more regional and tiered approach that we have. We never pretended there are easy choices here—it would be wrong to say otherwise. We are balancing protecting the economy and protecting people’s jobs and livelihoods while suppressing the virus, in the least damaging way possible. There is no perfect answer. As I said, there are no easy choices. But we will always be honest about that and try to tread that careful path between those two things. What would be more damaging for people’s jobs and livelihoods is a blunt national lockdown, which would inflict unnecessary hardship and suffering on people where the virus is not particularly rampant.

Throughout this crisis, the Chancellor has shown himself to be adaptable, nimble, flexible, dextrous and agile—perhaps it is down to the Peloton bike or a yoga exercise. I do not know what it is down to, but those are critical skills, essential for success in any endeavour. I thank him from the bottom of my heart for the measures he has announced today, which will benefit my constituents, who have struggled so much to keep their livelihoods afloat. I am truly grateful to him. Does he agree that the sledgehammer blunt instrument of a circuit breaker or fire break—call it what you like, but that type of lockdown—would be devastating to our communities and our economy? Will he do everything he can to ensure that that does not happen?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I thank her for her warm words. She knows, as someone who is a huge champion of small businesses in her area, repeatedly bringing their concerns to this Chamber, how damaging it would be to inflict unnecessary pain and suffering on those businesses and those people’s jobs and livelihoods. That is why the Prime Minister’s and this Government’s approach of a regional, tiered strategy is absolutely the right one.

The Chancellor will recognise that, although the tier system is only a few weeks old, Greater Manchester has been de facto in tier 2 for three months, before moving into tier 3 this week. The Chancellor told the House, in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford West (Naz Shah), that these grants will now be retrospective. Can he be absolutely clear: will the grants for Greater Manchester go back to the beginning of our period of de facto tier 2 and not simply to when the Government introduced the more formal, legalistic tier 2?

Yes, I can, and I hope I did, provide that reassurance. For all areas that have been suffering essentially de facto restrictions, as the hon. Gentleman said, we will backdate the grants through to the beginning of August as required, and that will benefit many local businesses in Greater Manchester. I am grateful for the representations I had on this matter from many colleagues around the House, including many of those I mentioned in my statement.

It has taken weeks for the Chancellor to tinker with his job support scheme to get it to a better place, as if he was surprised by the impact that the necessary public health restrictions would have; it really prompts the question why he did not just keep furlough. But the big question today is why he did not do anything about making the universal credit £20 per week lifeline permanent and extending it to legacy benefits, which would have disproportionately benefited disabled people at this difficult time.

Maybe the hon. Gentleman knew something that the TUC and every other business group did not when they warmly welcomed the introduction of the job support scheme, but I am grateful to have his thoughts. He might also want to have a word with his colleague the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock), who said that it was wrong to give support to large businesses that were benefiting from this crisis. That is exactly why it would be wrong to extend the furlough scheme. The job support scheme is more targeted in its approach, makes sure that those types of businesses are not able to access support and, as I have mentioned, is more generous to employers than the October furlough scheme.

I warmly welcome the Chancellor’s statement and thank him and his colleagues, and indeed the Department, for everything they are doing. It would take the most churlish of people to claim that this is anything but flexible, nimble and massive support for business. I recognise that, in making the job support scheme more generous, the Chancellor is now providing support for businesses that are open, and that is absolutely welcome. What steps are being taken in respect of those businesses that are open and perhaps do not need as much support—or, indeed, there could be fraudulent claims—to protect the taxpayer?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and that is why we have evolved our approach. Whereas earlier in this crisis, when we were facing something that was happening with enormous speed and severity, we erred on the side of being more universal in our approach and acting quickly, obviously, as time has progressed, we can be more targeted—more effective—to root out misuse of these schemes and make sure that support is targeted where it is most needed. As I said, one example of that is all the various new eligibility criteria for the job support scheme, ensuring that large businesses that are not suffering a revenue decline will not be able to access the scheme. There are also conditions around redundancy notices and the ability of large companies to make capital distributions while using the scheme. All those are sensible changes that go to the heart of what my hon. Friend said: we should target our support on those who really need it.

Thank you, Mr Speaker—take two. I thank my right hon. Friend for listening to the concerns that have been raised by York’s tourism and hospitality sector and announcing an extensive package of support for areas such as York that have been left in limbo under the tier 2 restrictions. However, does he agree that the best way to support York’s wider economy is to get us back to tier 1 as swiftly as possible? Can he assure me that the support announced today will not be used to justify prolonging additional restrictions for longer than is necessary?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: the best way to help businesses and protect people’s jobs is to allow businesses to trade and allow the economy to function as normally as possible. The support we have put in place today will not be used as an excuse not to do that, and as the Prime Minister said, we will be reviewing all these restrictions on a 28-day basis. Of course, we all want to see our local areas get back to as much of normality as they can, as quickly as possible.

One hundred and nine coach companies have gone bust, with 7,100 people made redundant, which is one sixth of the entire coach industry. Coach companies tell me that one reason for that is that they fall between gaps in support, being classified as neither tourism nor essential travel. Please will the Chancellor look urgently into what specific support can be given to the coach industry? Will the relevant Minister meet me and representatives of the sector to discuss their concerns?

I am happy to organise for a relevant Minister to meet the hon. Lady. I hope that those companies—she is right about the difficult time they are experiencing—will have been able to access, for example, the bounce back loans or the coronavirus business interruption loans to help them with cash flow, and ditto with the VAT deferral and time to pay. But I appreciate that it is a difficult time for them, and the best thing we can do is allow more economic activity so they can get their coaches full as quickly as possible.

I warmly welcome this package of support. Nevertheless, as the Chancellor has acknowledged, this will be a difficult winter for some businesses. When we move into what I hope will be a spring recovery, we will see the reintroduction of the full rates of VAT and business rates. Would my right hon. Friend consider phasing in the reintroduction of those at slightly lower levels to allow businesses to get back on their feet in these very important sectors?

As ever, I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s advice and support. He is right: the business rates holiday we have put in place this year has provided over £10 billion of support to almost 1 million businesses. I know what a vital lifeline it is, so of course we keep all measures under review. Future fiscal policy is for Budgets, but I thank him for raising the point with me.

When I previously asked the Chancellor about furloughed workers having to survive on less than the minimum wage, his callous response was that they would be “able to work elsewhere”, yet minimum wage workers in very high virus areas whose workplaces have been forced to shut will now have to live off just two thirds of the minimum wage. That is just £5.81 per hour—the minimum wage level of 11 years ago. Will the Chancellor introduce a wage floor so no such worker has to live off less than the minimum wage?

We have addressed this point before, but I am happy to repeat it. Very low-paid workers will benefit from the flexibility and responsiveness of universal credit, and that is where the universal credit taper works. The way it works is that it will replace the falls in income with a top-up in universal credit worth about 63p in the pound. For example, a single person in their late 20s, working in hospitality and renting privately in a flat in a northern city, will receive about 92% of their original income on an after tax and after benefits basis.

I too warmly welcome the Chancellor’s statement today. Does he agree with me that it is vital and absolutely right that we take this decisive action to support businesses and jobs today, but it is also important that we are mindful of the sustainability of public finances for tomorrow?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He will have seen the figures from this week detailing the difficult situation of our public finances, with the scale of the borrowing and the scale of the increase in our debt this year. While right now our primary focus should be on supporting jobs and employment, given the restrictions in place, it is always right that we have one eye on the future. We must be careful not to mortgage our children’s futures, and that is why our interventions will be done in a way that is sustainable and affordable for the long term to ensure that we live within our means over time.

I was critical of the Chancellor on Tuesday, so I want to thank him for listening and acting on one of the key asks of all Greater Manchester MPs, of all the council leaders in our city region and, yes, of our Mayor, Andy Burnham, too. It was that our businesses and supply chains should be supported in tier 2, because we have had 12 weeks of these measures with no help and no support, and many really are struggling as we tip into a stricter tier 3. For some it will be too late, but I thank him for making this retrospective. How soon will these funds be released, because it is pressing, and what calculation has he made of the 12-week entitlement for Greater Manchester businesses?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his comments. I would tell him that we will work very quickly with the Valuation Office Agency to calculate the value of those grants; we are just working through that detail. I hope to be able to provide him and all Manchester MPs with the figures as soon as possible, and we will of course release that funding as quickly as we have calculated the values.

On behalf of my constituents, may I thank the Chancellor for this comprehensive economic package? Clearly, he is a Chancellor who listens and I thank him for that. Will he join me in commending Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, who has campaigned passionately for further support? He is not a showboater; he just gets on with the job and gets things done.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am always grateful to hear from Mayor Andy Street. Andy has rightly put on the agenda the situation for businesses, especially hospitality businesses, in tier 2 areas, which my hon. Friend represents, and wanted me to be aware of what was happening. I am glad that today’s set of measures will make a difference to both my hon. Friend and Andy’s wider set of businesses and, I know, to many other businesses across the country.

The Chancellor says that he will support only viable businesses. Kim runs a wedding photography business. She is self-employed and works from home and, like millions of people, she has not qualified for any of the measures that the Chancellor has announced. Weddings will need photographers again, and Kim already has 71 bookings for next year. Why is the Chancellor’s message to Kim, and millions like her, that he thinks her business is not viable?

If the hon. Member wants to write to me with Kim’s particular circumstances, I would be happy to see what various things we have done that may be of benefit to her and her business.

I welcome this statement. It will ensure that the hospitality sector, even in those areas with much greater restrictions than my own, can hopefully keep going and come through this, as opposed to the approach of the Labour party, which would hammer the hospitality sector, even in areas such as mine, in Ipswich, where we currently have very low levels of covid. It will also give some reassurance to my constituents that, if the worst comes to the worst and cases increase, there is that additional support in place. One thing that these grants could be used on is winter heaters and gazebos, because we can still socialise outside in the winter months. I just wondered what the Chancellor’s thoughts were on that.

That is an interesting idea. Obviously, for areas in tier 3, the local authorities are receiving funding to use at their discretion. It may well be that that is an idea they want to take up. Of course, for both open and closed businesses in tiers 2 or 3, I have announced a series of grants today and it will be up to those businesses to use them on whatever they want. Primarily, we assume that they will use them to cover the fixed costs of things such as rent, but, of course, it will be up to them what they use them for. None the less, my hon. Friend makes a good suggestion, which, together with our planning changes, means that those businesses can serve as many customers as possible, even though they face restrictions at the moment.

I warmly welcome the additional support for tier 2 areas, such as my constituency in London. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to get London back into tier 1 as soon as possible as London is the engine of this country’s economy, accounting for 25% of all tax revenue?

My hon. Friend is a rightly proud champion of her businesses in central London. Obviously, what is happening not just to our capital city but to all our city centres is incredibly sad. We all want to see them springing back to life and vibrancy. Hopefully, the measures that we have announced today will provide some support and breathing space to help them get through a difficult period until they can get back on their feet and do exactly what we want them to do, which is return to where they were—bustling and welcoming us all back into their shops and restaurants.

The Chancellor says that he has been talking to the people who are worried about their livelihoods and the businesses facing redundancy, so he will know that those redundancies are falling particularly heavily on mums. We know from the data produced by the Office for National Statistics last month that 79% of the increase in redundancies has come from women, and we know that it is mums who are losing their jobs, but his Department is sitting on £1.7 billion of unspent tax-free childcare funding. Will he use that money to ensure that our childcare sector can support every parent who wants to get back to work and to stop the tsunami of unemployment that we are about to face?

The hon. Lady is right to highlight the particular importance of good-quality childcare, which, as she said, enables mums to be able to protect their employment. I am happy to look at the specific suggestion that she mentioned, but I think that we have recently made—in the previous Budget and before—some changes to the operation of tax-free childcare, so that it is more available to more people. She is right that the take-up has not been what was forecast, which is why we put the changes in place to broaden the approach and broaden the eligibility for it, but I am happy to look at her specific suggestion.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the provisions announced today, which I very much welcome. My constituency is partly in tier 1 and partly in tier 2, and I especially welcome the support for tier 2 areas, but also across the board into tier 1. Many constituents who work in the wedding and events sector, or across its supply chains, have contacted me with difficulties due to restrictions, uncertainty and a drop in trade. Can my right hon. Friend confirm that today’s announcement will also support the events sector and, crucially, those working across its supply chain?

It is precisely because we took a generous and universal approach to eligibility for the job support scheme, with its new generosity, that supply chains of all affected industries will be able to benefit. There were some calls that it should only be targeted at those in tier 2 areas, or, for example, only those in hospitality. We have taken the decision to ensure that the new job support scheme, with its new generosity, is available to all employers and all employees wherever they are in the UK. I think that will be of benefit to the industries and businesses that my hon. Friend mentioned.

There is no change in this announcement for people who are self-employed. A constituent of mine has contacted me. Back in March, she was assessed as earning too much to qualify for any assistance. Her income has now been revised down, but there is no way for her to appeal that original decision. This is no way to treat self-employed people. Can the Chancellor go away and look at these people who have fallen through the net?

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman missed that part of the statement; I apologise if it was not clear, but we have doubled the value of the self-employed grants that will be paid in the winter from 20% to 40%, mirroring the increase in the Government’s support for those who are in employment and ensuring parity between self-employed and employed. As I have said, that is generous and comprehensive. With regard to the income threshold, yes, the hon. Gentleman is right; we have decided to target support for the self-employed at those who earn less than £50,000. That is 95% of all those who are majority self-employed. The average income of those 5% who are not included is about £200,000.

I welcome the package announced by my right hon. Friend; he has quite rightly adapted the support that he is providing to the changing circumstances. May I look beyond the pandemic to the economic recovery, and urge continued support for my constituency in respect of the Greater Grimsby town deal? We also need broadband connectivity—and let me give a special mention in that regard for the village of Wold Newton. I know that he will be disappointed if I do not also mention free port status for Immingham and the Humber ports.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is important that we can look through this crisis to our economic recovery. I know that his area will play a starring role in helping to drive that recovery, whether that is through Grimsby or a free port in Immingham. I am pleased to say that we are making good progress on the free port process. I hope to announce the bidding process very soon, and look forward to receiving his local area’s application when the time is right.

The nature of the Government’s interventions in this crisis are reactionary and there are significant gaps in the support. A principal casualty of those gaps are the 3 million excluded, who have had a devastating summer. The Chancellor has used the word “generous” over 20 times in this statement, so I urge him to advise me what support he will now give to the 3 million excluded. Will he do them the service not of telling us how he has supported other people, but of telling us what he will do for them?

The circumstances of everyone who is self-employed will be different. It may well be that they own a business premises, which will benefit from business rates relief or a cash grant. It may well be that they have used the bounce back loan scheme, as over a million small businesses have. It may be that they are benefiting from the enhanced welfare system and the improvements to universal credit and the local housing allowance. Or it may be that they are the self-employed people who today will benefit from a doubling of the grant that I have announced, which will be up to over £3,700 this Christmas. This remains one of the most comprehensive packages of support for those who are self-employed anywhere in the world.

On behalf of the Hop Pole pub in Wistaston, Hickory’s Smokehouse in Shavington, Pillory House in Nantwich, Giovanni’s in Crewe and Eight Farmers in Leighton, all of whom have been telling about the difficulties that they have been facing, I thank the Chancellor for the support measures that he has announced today, which will have a huge impact on their ability to get through this troubling time. Will he confirm when the support will be available and whether it will be backdated for those of us who have been in tier 2 for some time?

If we are ending on this note, my hon. Friend has made me exceptionally hungry to hear that roll-call of great-sounding restaurants, which I hope I have a chance to visit with him. I can gladly give him that reassurance. We will be backdating the tier 2 grant support to the time that those restrictions were put in place, and I hope that will be of benefit to all the restaurants that he mentioned and many more small businesses in his constituency.

Royal Assent

I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that Her Majesty has signified her Royal Assent to the following Acts:

Sentencing Act 2020

Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Act 2020.

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 a few minutes.

Sitting suspended.