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Covid-19: Employment

Volume 680: debated on Tuesday 15 September 2020

The Government have put in place a £190 billion plan to protect people’s jobs, incomes and businesses, one of the largest and most comprehensive economic responses in the world, and that includes the £30 billion made available under the plan for jobs.

The Eat Out to Help Out scheme has been a phenomenal success in my constituency of the Cities of London and Westminster. More than 890,000 meals have been discounted—several eaten by myself, I hasten to add. Will my right hon. Friend comment on the amazing package of help that the Government have given to the retail and hospitality sectors? Moving forward, what policies can we hope to expect to support these vital sectors, which are responsible for hundreds of thousands of jobs in my constituency?

My hon. Friend is right to recognise the effectiveness of that scheme in supporting demand. It was dismissed as a gimmick when my right hon. Friend the Chancellor launched it, but it has been warmly received by the hospitality industry. As she knows from her constituency and that of others, it is part of that wider package of support, including the cutting of the rate of VAT, which again has been a huge boost to that industry.

I thank the Treasury team for the support that they have provided so far. My experience during the summer was that there was a great deal of support from local businesses for the variety of schemes, particularly those in the hospitality and tourism sectors, which are very important in my constituency. Turning to the future though, we must make sure that we provide the job opportunities that we are going to need. In Gloucestershire, we had a lift-off event last Friday, organised by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Richard Graham) and supported by all six Gloucestershire MPs, where we focused on skills and training and brought together a range of employers. That is the kind of thing that I would like my right hon. Friends in the Treasury to think about supporting. It is the future we need to focus on, not the past.

I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend for that event. I saw the read out and how positive it had been. He is right to focus on that forward piece, using the package of measures that my right hon. Friend set out. That includes, for example, the payment to employers for each new apprenticeship—up to £2,000 for those over 25—the £2 billion kickstart scheme, but also other schemes such as the tripling in the number of traineeships. Events such as the one he mentioned are ones that I am sure other Members will wish to follow.