Covid-19: Support for UK Industries

Nigel Huddleston Excerpts
Thursday 25th June 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nigel Huddleston Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Nigel Huddleston)
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It is a pleasure to contribute on the Government’s behalf to this debate, which comes as countries across the world continue to battle one of the worst public health emergencies in our history. I thank Members on both sides of the House for their valuable contributions, both in this debate and in the months and weeks before, and their work to highlight issues that I know we all care very deeply about.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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Will the Minister give way?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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It would not be a debate without an intervention from the hon. Gentleman.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon
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We discussed this this morning: can I request the Minister’s help for Bombardier in Belfast and Newtownards in my constituency, where 600 manufacturing jobs are under threat? Would he accept the letter from me with Bombardier’s 16-point plan and be so kind as to arrange a response?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I would be happy to take the letter and ensure that the hon. Gentleman gets an appropriate response from the correct Minister.

The importance of this debate is demonstrated by the fact that hundreds of thousands of people signed the petitions. Of course, we are in an unprecedented global crisis, and this Government have provided an unprecedented, wide-ranging level of financial support in response to protect jobs, businesses and incomes across the country. Under the coronavirus job retention scheme, we have supported over 10 million people and at least 1 million businesses. We have supported 2.6 million self-employed people and given out £26 billion in bounce back loans alone, not to mention the support in the form of grants for small businesses and for those in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. Given the direct and acute impacts of the covid-19 pandemic on those latter sectors, the Government have also provided a business rates holiday for businesses in retail, hospitality and leisure, so that all eligible businesses will pay no business rates for 12 months. This support is worth almost £10 billion to those businesses.

Several Members, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Theresa Villiers), asked about nurseries. We absolutely recognise the important role that nurseries play in young children’s lives at the very start of their education. Recognising that, we made sure that nurseries were also on the list for the business rate holiday.

On the broader financial package, when it became clear that more help was needed, the Chancellor announced in May that the furlough scheme would continue until the end of October, and in its current form until the end of July, supporting furloughed workers as they gradually return to work.

The Government have provided a wide and unparalleled level of financial support during the pandemic to help workers in every sector and in every region of the UK, but we knew that as we entered lockdown, as part of our battle against this disease we would need a number of targeted interventions to protect jobs and businesses in some of our most beloved and hardest-hit sectors, including those identified in the petitions. We have had a good and thorough debate about those sectors today. Working groups have been set up by various Departments to work on the path to recovery and to identify what further support may be required, and discussions with the Treasury are taking place.

Munira Wilson Portrait Munira Wilson (Twickenham) (LD)
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Will the Minister put it on the record that the creative industries contribute a huge amount to our economy and improve everybody’s mental wellbeing? Will he recognise that, welcome though the support schemes were, many freelancers and directors of limited companies, particularly in the creative industries in my constituency, have been left—

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I thank the hon. Lady for her passion. That passion is shared by Ministers at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and elsewhere, and conversations are ongoing about further support.

Hon. Members will appreciate that, given the time constraints, I am unable to respond to many of the other specific points and questions that were raised today relating to multiple Government Departments and other bodies. However, I will make sure that relevant Ministers are aware of all the points that have been raised in this debate.

I cannot mention individually everyone who has contributed to today’s debate, but I thank everybody for their thoughtful and constructive comments. In particular, I would like to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet; my hon. Friends the Members for Wimbledon (Stephen Hammond), for Ynys Môn (Virginia Crosbie), for Buckingham (Greg Smith), for Hastings and Rye (Sally-Ann Hart), for Brecon and Radnorshire (Fay Jones), for Dudley South (Mike Wood) and for Bolsover (Mark Fletcher); the right hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami); and the hon. Members for Newcastle upon Tyne North (Catherine McKinnell), for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali), for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone), for Coventry North West (Taiwo Owatemi), for Luton South (Rachel Hopkins) and for Richmond Park (Sarah Olney) for mentioning tourism, hospitality and leisure—and, of course, aviation. Obviously, that sector is very close to my heart.

I would also like to thank those who have mentioned many other sectors, including my hon. Friends the Members for Broadland (Jerome Mayhew), for Don Valley (Nick Fletcher), for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne), and for Kensington (Felicity Buchan), and the hon. Members for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), for Stockport (Navendu Mishra), and for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson), who raised issues about the arts, technology, zoos and many other important sectors.

Before I conclude, I want to praise my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Darren Henry), who made a very eloquent maiden speech. He talked with passion and pride about his work, about his West Indian heritage, about this land of opportunity and about his 26 years in the RAF. That is particularly timely this week, which is Armed Forces Week. He is rightly proud of his family, and he has done his family proud. His constituency can be equally proud to have an MP of his calibre as their representative in this place.

It has been a great pleasure to participate in today’s debate, and I thank everybody for their contributions. This debate has been extraordinarily valuable, and I am sure that the dialogue will continue.