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Government must learn lessons on business support, say MPs

Westminster’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee wrote to Business Secretary Alok Sharma.

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The letter was sent to Alok Sharma (Aaron Chown/PA)

The letter was sent to Alok Sharma (Aaron Chown/PA)

The letter was sent to Alok Sharma (Aaron Chown/PA)

The Government must act with more “policy sophistication and transparency” to support businesses and workers in the face of a second wave of Covid-19, ministers have been told.

In a letter to Business Secretary Alok Sharma, Westminster’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee set out a range of areas for the Government to address.

The committee identified gaps for workers in support schemes, protections in place for workers and highlighted bad corporate behaviour during the crisis as key areas that should be assessed.

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Darren Jones is chair of the committee (Chris McAndrew/PA)

Darren Jones is chair of the committee (Chris McAndrew/PA)

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Darren Jones is chair of the committee (Chris McAndrew/PA)

Committee chairman, Labour MP Darren Jones, said the Government should now look again at its approach to providing sectoral support during the course of the pandemic.

“Given the evolving situation around Covid-19, it’s inevitable that issues would emerge concerning the effectiveness of the Government’s support package and its impact on workers and businesses,” said Mr Jones.

“However, it is also the case that the alarm over gaps in the Government’s support, such as for women and those affecting freelancers and agency workers, were being raised repeatedly by those affected and yet these warnings continued to go unheeded.

“(Chancellor) Rishi Sunak echoed a previous Chancellor in suggesting that the coronavirus has seen us all in it together. However, it’s clear that the reality of the economic lockdown is that its impact has not been shared out evenly and that it is falling very heavily on some parts of our economy.”

Mr Jones also said difficult trading conditions would continue to impact on the viability of businesses.

He said: “It’s clear that some sectors of our economy will continue to face very challenging conditions.

“The shutdown of the aviation and aerospace sector will, for example, have a longer-term impact on these industries compared to others.

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Alok Sharma’s spokesperson said they had put together an unprecedented package to support business (Stefan Rousseau, PA Wire)

Alok Sharma’s spokesperson said they had put together an unprecedented package to support business (Stefan Rousseau, PA Wire)

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Alok Sharma’s spokesperson said they had put together an unprecedented package to support business (Stefan Rousseau, PA Wire)

“In some parts of hospitality and in other sectors too, difficult trading conditions and continuing restrictions threaten future revenue and their viability.”

Mr Jones added: “It’s important the Government quickly learns the lessons of recent months so that they can act in future with more policy sophistication and transparency and be able to step up and deliver the most effective support possible to workers and businesses.

“If we face the prospect of a second-wave and the likelihood of increased local lock-downs, it’s essential the Government looks again at its approach to sector support and to the additional measures which will be necessary to secure our economic recovery, help businesses prosper and enable workers to protect their livelihoods.”

A BEIS spokesperson said: “We have listened to businesses and workers throughout the pandemic to ensure they get the support they need. That is why we have put in place an unprecedented initial package of support to protect jobs, incomes and businesses worth £160 billion.

“This package is one of the most comprehensive in the world and has been specifically tailored to target businesses worst affected by the pandemic, including through our job retention scheme and billions paid in grants, loans, business rates holidays and tax deferrals.”

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