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Fiscal Support: Covid-19

Volume 682: debated on Tuesday 20 October 2020

The Government have provided an unprecedented package of support for people, businesses and public services throughout the UK, totalling more than £200 billion. That has included helping to pay the wages of 9.6 million people through the job retention scheme and protecting the livelihoods of 2.6 million self-employed workers through the self-employment income support scheme.

The Scottish Government are doing what they can to support individuals, businesses and those who have been excluded by the Chancellor from receiving any grants, loans or payment holidays. They are hampered in doing so by not having the autonomy of borrowing powers to meet the unique requirements of the Scottish economy. Will the Government heed repeated calls for the devolution of borrowing powers to enable the Scottish Government to provide additional targeted assistance to those individuals and sectors that they have identified as most in need?

As the hon. Gentleman will know, the current state of affairs was agreed between the Scottish Government and the UK Government after exhaustive consultation and discussion by the Silk commission, and that remains the set-up to which the Scottish Government have committed themselves.[Official Report, 23 October 2020, Vol. 682, c. 4MC.]

With the dual viruses of Brexit and covid-19, we are heading for a winter of discontent and a longer period of mass unemployment. With no Budget announcement, what are the Chancellor’s economic advisers telling him about the Government’s preparations for mass unemployment and the sectors that will be worst hit?

The Chancellor has been very clear that because we are in the midst of a pandemic, we are likely to see, and we are indeed already seeing, some redundancies. There is no doubt about the seriousness of the financial and economic situation that we are in. I remind the hon. Gentleman with regard to Scotland that there has been some £7 billion of support for the Scottish Government in dealing with the pandemic and its economic effects, over and above the £21.3 billion provided through the regular Barnett process.

Thank you, Mr Speaker. In regions facing tier 3 restrictions, many businesses have been forced to close. In tier 2 regions, many businesses, especially in hospitality, are open in name only, running up all the costs without the customers. What do the Government have to say to those businesses that realistically cannot operate but are not legally required to close?

I welcome the hon. Lady to her place. I mourn the loss to his new job of her predecessor, the hon. Member for Ilford North (Wes Streeting), with whom I happily fenced over many sessions on the Finance Bill.

The answer to the hon. Lady’s question is, of course, that we are acutely aware of the financial costs on those businesses, as we are of those on businesses that have been forced to close, and that is why we have put in place an evolving and comprehensive programme of support for business.