Covid-19: Support for UK Industries

Patricia Gibson Excerpts
Thursday 25th June 2020

(10 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Order. I am afraid that we will have to move to a three- minute limit if we are to have any chance of getting as many people in as possible.

Patricia Gibson Portrait Patricia Gibson (North Ayrshire and Arran) (SNP)
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25 Jun 2020, midnight

The circumstances in which we find ourselves are unprecedented, and unprecedented times call for unprecedented action. What may have seemed unthinkable to this Government a few short months ago is now not only thinkable but absolutely essential to support UK industries.

The Government’s actions to save jobs through the job retention scheme by allowing workers to be furloughed was universally welcomed, although there were too many gaps in it, which was deeply unfair to workers who fell through those cracks. But the current plan to reduce support for furloughed workers and self-employed people is sending unemployment soaring. The plans to cut back on furlough support has seen tens of thousands of jobs lost before our eyes: 9,000 jobs at Rolls-Royce; 10,000 jobs at BP; 5,000 jobs at Centrica; 10,000 jobs at British Airways; more than 3,000 jobs at Virgin Atlantic; 2,600 jobs at OVO Energy; 2,500 jobs at Travis Perkins—I literally do not have time to go through the thousands of jobs that are being lost.

The whole point of the job retention scheme was to save jobs—an aim that we can all support—but if the furlough support is withdrawn too early, it will have failed in that goal. In addition, Government loans need to be converted into grants to save our businesses. I first petitioned the Chancellor on this issue on 15 April in a letter to which I still await a response. The guiding principle here must be to save businesses, jobs and our economy. We are very far from “job done”.

The Bank of England has said that the UK Government should treat the debt that has been incurred as war debt. That is absolutely correct. It should not lead to greater austerity, because that will only compound the challenges that we currently face. A war has indeed been fought—a war on our health and our economy—and the Government must continue to throw every mechanism and tool at their disposal at securing victory as we face the worst economic depression in more than 300 years.

UK Government borrowing will reach £340 billion and quantitative easing will reach £645 billion this year, so why has Scotland been allocated a relatively meagre £10 billion? While the UK Government borrow and Scotland is sold short, the powers, levers and financial flexibility that Scotland has are insufficient to manage Scotland’s response to the host of challenges that we face. With the requisite powers in Scotland, we could do it better for ourselves, as we always do. The current powers do not allow us to do that. We need to be armed to face the economic tsunami that is heading our way at great speed. If this Government will not do more, we in Scotland need more power to do it for ourselves.

Virginia Crosbie Portrait Virginia Crosbie (Ynys Môn) (Con)
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25 Jun 2020, 12:03 a.m.

My constituency of Ynys Môn is an island of vast economic potential; however, over the past two decades the people of Ynys Môn have endured an economic decline that should never have been allowed to happen. Many large employers have closed and thousands of well-paid jobs are being lost. This has been hugely detrimental to the island’s precious Welsh culture and the sustainability of the language, as so many have had to travel away to be successful in their careers.

As I am sure Members from all parties who represent coastal constituencies can attest, the tourism and hospitality sector is often most crucial in economically disadvantaged areas. That is certainly the case on Ynys Môn, where the sector supports roughly 4,000 jobs and contributes more than £300 million to the local economy. The lockdown was, of course, the right thing to do: it helped to prevent our precious NHS from being overrun and it helped to save lives. I know that I speak for many businesses and self-employed people from across Ynys Môn—including many of those operating in the tourism sector and the supply chain that supports it—in saying that although the lockdown has been unimaginably difficult to endure, the packages of financial support provided by the Government have been both invaluable and hugely appreciated. That financial support will give the sector a fighting chance to recover and to thrive once again.

In April, it was announced that the parent company of two of the island’s favourite pubs—the Oyster Catcher in Rhosneigr and the White Eagle in Rhoscolyn—had entered into administration. It was feared and likely that at a time when our island cannot afford to lose a single job, more than 100 jobs across both sites would be lost. However, due to the coronavirus job retention scheme, both pubs were identified as being viable and have now been rescued. I thank the Timpson Group for once again displaying confidence in the amazing workforce of Ynys Môn. I wish both pubs and their employees a long and successful future.

Ynys Môn is the most dependent local authority in the UK on tourism, and this crisis has highlighted more than ever that this needs to change and we must diversify. Our coastal waters have some of the strongest tides in the British Isles, and companies such as Minesto are looking to use tidal power. We have a nuclear power station, Wylfa Newydd, which will create thousands of jobs and help to reduce our carbon emissions. Ynys Môn has the opportunity to play a leading role in developing these technologies, with unparalleled economic opportunities for the people of the island.