“It’s a relief they have U-turned” – Dodds’ response to Chancellor

Anneliese Dodds
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

Below is the full text of the response offered by Anneliese Dodds to the Chancellor’s economic update in parliament today.

I would like to thank the Chancellor for his statement, and for advance copy of the announcement.

I have called for the introduction of a system of targeted wage support 40 times. That call has been rebuffed by his government 20 times. It’s a relief they have U-turned now.

But this comes too late for many people who have already lost their jobs – because the businesses employing them believed there would be no wage support following the end of next month.

Indeed, the deadline for redundancy consultations by large firms before the end of the furlough scheme, came and went last week without a word from this government.

If the package of measures announced today can help people keep their jobs, and can help businesses through hard times, then Labour will of course support them- and there’s much in this statement that we do support.

But we must ensure measures are as effective as possible at keeping workers in employment, getting unemployed people back into work, and keeping viable businesses in operation.

As with many previous announcements by this government, we must wait for the detail to be announced, presumably following the press conference scheduled for later on today. But workers and businesses will be hanging right now on the Chancellor’s every word – and they need to know what is promised here.

So can the Chancellor be clear. Will this scheme of wage support actually keep more people in work? For that to happen, the scheme must make it more attractive to employers to retain more staff, on reduced hours, than to retain some full-time and make others redundant. So does his scheme actually incentivise short-hours working?

What conditions – if any – will be applied to ensure value for public money? Will the scheme require commitments for continuing employment – unlike the existing furlough scheme where there have been abuses? And will it require those participating to provide decent, sustainable work?

Will the scheme incentivise training and retraining? The German scheme does, and Labour’s called for a UK version to include incentives for training- but that’s missing from this government’s plan.

Indeed, while we welcome many of the elements the Chancellor has announced today, the lack of action on training and skills is worrying. The government has already allocated £3bn for a National Skills Strategy – but it’s not being delivered on the ground. So will the Chancellor work with businesses, trade unions, further and higher education and local authorities to get the training opportunities in place our country needs, so people can be ready for the jobs of the future?

What will the Chancellor provide to help the self-employed struggling during this period – where again, Labour has argued for a targeted system of support? How can we avoid the gaps in coverage that have bedevilled existing schemes?

And will the Chancellor do more to demand his colleagues get a grip on the UK’s public health crisis? Our country is suffering from a double tragedy: the highest excess death rate in Europe, and the deepest recession in the G7. Labour supports the government in its announcement of additional restrictions this week. The government’s messaging has been confused enough already- the last thing we want to do is add to that confusion. But we are concerned that those restrictions have only been necessary because of continuing problems with test, trace and isolate.

When will he acknowledge that his government’s failures on test, trace and isolate are having a substantial negative impact on our economy – and what will he do to fix the system?

Before the summer recess, Labour called for a Back to Work Budget focused on jobs, jobs, jobs. We didn’t get one. We expected a Budget this autumn to address the major challenges our country faces. It appears again- we’re not getting one. And the Chancellor only announced he would make a statement to Parliament today, after I’d hauled him here with an Urgent Question, which I’m very grateful to Mr Speaker for granting.

We lagged behind on wage support; we lagged behind on support for those having to self-isolate; we’re lagging behind on green investment; and for these and other reasons it looks like our recovery will be lagging behind. So finally when will the Chancellor provide the Back to Work Budget this country needs?

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