There are 205,000 self-employed in Wales, 110,000 of whom are receiving direct cash grants, totalling over £295 million, through the Government’s self-employment income support scheme. The scheme is one of a range of Government initiatives supporting the self-employed during the coronavirus outbreak.
If you will indulge me, Mr Speaker, I want to pass on my commiserations to everyone involved in the horrific car crash in Trebanog in the Rhondda earlier today. I thank the police and the fire brigade, who have been helping.
The Secretary of State is right that lots of people have received help, but an awful lot of people in the Rhondda have not had a single penny. There are people who set up a company just two years ago and have now lost their business, their home and their livelihood. There are people who have gone from having £3,000 a month in the bank to £300 a month. When we come to the next round of decisions by the Government and the Treasury, we have to do something for the 3 million people who have been excluded from every single scheme. They feel that this has been massively unfair, and we have hundreds of tradespeople in the Rhondda who have not had a single penny off the Government.
I know the whole House will join me in expressing our sympathy for those involved in the accident in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency this morning. I know what a blow it is for him and everybody involved, and our thoughts are with them.
In relation to the schemes, I suspect that we all, as constituency MPs, have examples of people who have fallen through the net. I can only reiterate what the Chancellor has said on numerous occasions, which is that we will always try to look at every possible way to ensure that those who qualify for help but, for some reason, are not getting it do get it. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to raise any individual cases, which we have all had, I am happy to look at them.
My thoughts are with those caught up in the awful crash in the Rhondda.
Many self-employed people in Wales who have already been hard hit by lockdown now fear the impact on their customer base of the looming spectre of mass unemployment that is hanging over their communities—industrial communities that still bear the scars of the damage wreaked by the Tories in the ’80s. When will this Government grasp the urgency of the situation and bring forward specific measures for sectors such as aviation that need longer to recover, in order to support the thousands of Welsh workers who depend on them?
The hon. Lady makes an unnecessary political point. The Government, along with the Welsh Government, have done everything they can to ensure that the smallest possible number of people in Wales have gone without important assistance during this pandemic. If she is hinting that the extension of furlough is the only answer, I can tell her that it is not. The Treasury has said that that is one option, but there are numerous other options that ought to help people and are already helping people make their way out of covid and back into a properly functioning economy. Of course, the best way to save jobs across the whole of Wales is to get people safely back to work.
Indeed, but there is now barely a month to go until the Government’s job protection schemes end, leaving thousands of self-employed people and others at risk of unemployment. It is not just Labour saying that. Businesses, trade unions and the Treasury Committee have all sounded the alarm. Will the Government accept that a one-size-fits-all approach to this jobs crisis is simply not working, and will they come forward with concrete proposals and a real plan to safeguard jobs for people across Wales?
A third of the workforce in Wales has been supported by the UK Government during the pandemic. We have gone further and deeper than pretty well any Government in the world, with VAT deferrals, mortgage holidays, rental support, increases in universal credit, relaxation of the minimum income floor and VAT reductions. This is not a one-size-fits-all arrangement. This is a whole package of measures that are designed to help as many people as possible to stay in work and get back to work as soon as it is safe to do so. I am surprised that the hon. Lady does not welcome that.
On the issue of the 3 million excluded, my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) is right. At a time when more local areas are facing lockdowns, I urge Ministers to do far more to help those who have fallen through the gaps, at the very least by addressing the five-week wait for universal credit—it should be a grant, not an advance.
I assure the hon. Lady that there will never be a moment when the Government or the Wales Office sit back and think we have done enough as far as this is concerned. We are always striving and will always strive to ensure that we improve every one of our schemes. Where there are gaps, which we have identified before—Government Members have also been helpful in that respect—we will do everything we can to ensure that they are plugged.