My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the importance of innovation. She will be delighted to know that the Government are protecting innovators and start-ups from the impact of covid through almost £900 million of future fund loans to date, £79 million for innovation loans as well as other grants, and that comes on top of more than £5 billion of support through research and development tax credits claimed for 2018-19 so far, which support more than £35 billion of R&D expenditure.
I should make it perfectly clear to my hon. Friend, as the Chancellor has, that we take these points extremely seriously. We have been given many different suggestions over the past few months for ways in which we could accommodate these concerns. We have looked at them very closely, and so far we have struggled to find one that meets the need to avoid the fraud risk that bedevils this concern. I responded last week to the latest request to meet from the Federation of Small Businesses, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants and Forgotten Ltd to explore the latest of these schemes. I have also said that I would be happy to meet the all-party parliamentary group, alongside ExcludedUK, to address these questions.
Obviously, the Scottish Government are due to outline a budget at some point soon and, in respect of future tax and welfare policy, if that is something that the hon. Gentleman and the Scottish Government want to do, I am sure they have every tool and lever at their disposal to do exactly that.
My hon. Friend is a fantastic champion for the engineering sector, which he cares deeply about and has spoken to me about previously. He is right: it is important that we train the engineers of tomorrow, and what better time than Tomorrow’s Engineers Week? I would be happy to talk to him and any organisations that he wants to connect me with to make sure that the sector fully benefits from the opportunities we are providing for companies to take on bright new people and provide them with a better future.
I know that it is a difficult time for the hon. Gentleman’s constituents, and he is right that they should engage constructively. I am glad that he and his local area are doing that. There will be a variety of support available. Closed businesses will receive grants of up to £3,000 a month, paid centrally. Obviously, similar to other areas, there will be a negotiation and a conversation with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, which will result in an amount of support being provided for businesses. Of course, as the hon. Gentleman will know, there is also a formula to provide the local authority with support of up to £8 per head, and that money is used to enhance local compliance enforcement and contact tracing. I know that those conversations are ongoing and I very much hope that they will have a constructive outcome.
I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. He mentioned some numbers, and that is ultimately what it is about. We stand in this place and talk about many billions of pounds and policy, but often it is about the people and the jobs and livelihoods that we are trying to protect. I am delighted to hear that the 20,000 people he mentioned have benefited from the support that this Government have put in place, and I can give him and them the assurance that we will continue to do exactly that.
My right hon. Friend rightly highlights an industry and a sector that have been particularly hit. Again, we have tried, through the package of measures such as the extension of the self-employed income support scheme, to help some of those within that sector. I think the business to which she is referring is more a pay-as-you-earn one, but it is often freelancers who work in, say, the lighting sector and the events sector, and they have been particularly impacted. That is why the self-employed scheme was introduced. To some extent, and given the over £200 million of support, the Chancellor has been very candid, as have I, about the fact that we were not in a position as a Government to save every single job. We are working with colleagues—I am always happy to work with my right hon. Friend—to look at what measures we can take, but it has to be balanced against the wider fiscal position.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his question; I think the Chancellor has demonstrated throughout the health pandemic that he has both kept an open mind and consulted widely, with the TUC, business leaders and many others. That is why for hospitality specifically we had a range of measures in the summer, with eat out to help out, the targeted VAT support and cash support measures, and the job support for staff coming back, where the Government helped with some of those labour costs. Of course the Chancellor will keep these things under review, but the key issue for all of us is to get the virus down, and that is the best way of helping our hospitality sector.
Those who call for a sector-specific approach are not always able to articulate exactly how they would define those sectors and also the supply chain that they serve. The most important thing is to have provided broad, generous and swift coverage to protect 9 million jobs, as this Government have done, and now to reopen these sectors so that we can get as many of those people back to work as quickly as possible to the jobs that they have.
The Government recognise the current challenges facing commercial landlords. That is why we have worked very closely with lenders to ensure that support and flexibility is being shown to commercial borrowers. This forms part of a much wider picture of unprecedented support to businesses affected, including via business rates holidays, grants and Government-backed loans—and of course those, in turn, give access to cash to pay for rents and salaries or suppliers.
My hon. Friend will know, of course, that we published a code of practice to encourage all parties involved in a landlord-tenant situation to work together to ensure equity and swift recovery. More widely, we have made available over £330 billion of guarantees through the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme, the large business interruption loan scheme, and the corporate financing facility. But of course I would be happy to continue to discuss this issue with him.
I thank the hon. Lady for her question. I have not seen the survey that she describes. but I will look at it and discuss it with the Minister for Equalities, my colleague the Exchequer Secretary. Of course there can be no shying away from this issue and if it is as the hon. Lady describes, we will look closely at it. I thank her for that.
We are very aware of the backdrop against which these negotiations are taking place. Hon. Members will not have long to wait before they learn more about border operations, but in many of the areas that the hon. Gentleman mentions, we have made progress, and that progress is in the public domain. In other areas, we are simply asking for a reciprocal relationship for things that we currently do for other nations.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right; we have left the EU. At the end of this year, we will be a fully independent and sovereign nation. Our interests are best served by having that flexibility with rest-of-the-world trade and with the choices we make about our trading arrangements with others, as well as the EU. That is the basis of our negotiating position and it is one that we will hold to.
We estimate that more than 1.3 million people have returned to the UK via commercial routes, the majority through our work to keep the vital routes open.
Yes, I can absolutely provide my hon. Friend with that reassurance. The UK has close links with Nigeria and elsewhere, and I am pleased that we have been able to support charter flights, thereby enabling around 1,700 British travellers to return home since 18 April.
At this point, it is very difficult to make changes to the operation of these schemes; that would just delay further payment. For those workers who have fluctuating wages—for example, those on zero-hours contracts—we have provided employers and employees with the ability to take either the most recent time period and look at that over a year before, if they were seasonal, or to take an average of their earnings over a period, to ensure that they are not inadvertently penalised by a shorter period of lower earnings. I think that that does provide flexibility and generosity to those who do not have fixed amounts of work.
When we announced the job retention scheme, I said that it would apply to those who were known to HMRC on 28 February. That was how the scheme was designed and set up. Over the last few weeks, we have moved that date to 19 March, which brings an extra few hundred thousand people into it and means that overall, just shy of 30 million people in employment are able to benefit from the furlough scheme. It is an extraordinary achievement for the team in HMRC to have conceived that in this short space of time.
We took no such evidence and no such evidence was proffered to us. It might exist out there, but we have certainly not seen it.
I do not want to detain the House any longer, as I have made my core point. The whole reason why this has been such a big issue and has united the House is that the loan charge is retrospective, and that is unfair and wrong. We have to defend individual taxpayers, even if we think they might have been ill-advised in the first place. We have to defend the law. Why do we meet in this House? Why do we pass laws, unless we come back here and say, “Government—you’re breaking the law”, and hold them to account for that? That is our constitutional job, and I thank right hon. and hon. Members from across the House for doing their duty.
I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that the announcement today was of £5 billion of fresh funding for local transport—buses and cycling. When it comes to cycling—something we all want made easier to access for all our constituents—there will be 250 miles of new dedicated cycle track.
I understand my hon. Friend’s concerns and he is right to raise this. He will be pleased that Highways England is conducting a supplementary consultation on the lower Thames crossing to make sure that any benefits are maximised. The consultation will close on 25 March, and I will then look at it carefully. I would encourage him to have his say.