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Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Volume 680: debated on Tuesday 15 September 2020

What estimate he has made of the level of financial support that has been provided to employees by businesses under the coronavirus job retention scheme. (906045)

As of 16 August, 9.6 million jobs have been protected by the coronavirus job retention scheme, helping 1.2 million businesses with a total value of £35.4 billion.

Thousands of jobs in my constituency of North West Durham have been protected by the Government over this period, but my constituents are aware that such levels of taxpayer support cannot go on indefinitely and also want to see new jobs being created. Will my right hon. Friend enlighten me as to how many jobs we are looking at getting through the kickstart scheme, which is now coming forward to help to get new jobs into the economy?

The £2 billion kickstart scheme has the potential to support more than 250,000 young people and, as my hon. Friend is well aware, it is part of a comprehensive package of £30 billion of support that my right hon. Friend set out as part of his plan for jobs in the summer economic update.

Despite countless warnings from these Benches, the Government are pulling away the job retention scheme just at the moment when infection rates are rising again right across our country. Businesses have said it, unions have said it, and even Tory Back Benchers are saying it: the one-size-fits-all withdrawal of wage support risks a jobs crisis this autumn. Will the Minister not listen and change course before it is too late?

The hon. Lady is simply wrong. What she ignores is the fact that my right hon. Friend has put in place a furlough bonus as support that goes beyond October to retain that link for employees to come back. That is part of a wider package of measures that goes alongside the furlough and stands comparison with the most generous in the world.

The Chief Secretary knows full well that the jobs retention bonus risks giving all the money to companies that simply do not need it. We would happily support the Government in developing a targeted, flexible wage support scheme for hard-hit sectors central to our country’s future. We have been saying this day in, day out for months now—the Government just have not been listening. Rather than stubbornly sticking to a decision made back in July, can he not accept that the situation has changed and that the Government must also change course?

There seems to be some confusion because, just last week in the debate that we had in this House, the shadow Chancellor actually recognised that the Chancellor had indeed listened with regard to the design of the furlough. In fact, they claimed credit for the role, which I salute, of the trade unions and others. So we have listened, but the reality is that the furlough pays a higher rate of people’s wages than the scheme in Spain. It supports a wider range of businesses than the one in New Zealand and the scheme runs for twice as long as that in Denmark. That shows the flexibility and the willingness to listen on the part of my right hon. Friend.