Midlothian MP calls Chancellor’s statement a “missed opportunity”

Midlothian MP Owen Thompson (SNP) said the Chancellor’s mini-budget “did not have enough substance to protect jobs and businesses through the Covid-19 crisis”.

Thursday, 9th July 2020, 12:36 pm
Owen Thompson MP

Speaking after yesterday’s statement, the Midlothian MP urged more action to assist the 3 million people who fell through the gaps in support for the employed and self-employed. He also called for self-employment support to continue after August, for improvements to the CBILS business loan scheme and for the furlough scheme to be extended beyond October.

Figures from the House of Commons library suggest unemployment could rise to 3.8 million without intervention as the furlough scheme ends, while the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicted five million could be unemployed by Christmas if there is a second wave of the virus.

Mr Thompson said “Yesterday was a missed opportunity from the UK Government. Rather than plugging the holes in the Covid-19 support, they are choosing to withdraw the lifelines for everyone.

“A £10 discount voucher for a meal out is not the solution for all those whose lives have been wrecked by Covid-19. It’s an insult to the soaring numbers of people reliant on foodbanks, with the Trussell Trust reporting a staggering 89 per cent rise in need.

“The Chancellor said he would do whatever it takes to protect jobs and see people through this crisis - he didn’t say but only until October. In Spain the scheme has already been extended to 2021 as they realise that the cost of a massive spike in unemployment is far more damaging than the cost of government borrowing.

“The UK Government are ignoring the voices of the 3 million who were inexcusably excluded from the support schemes. They are ignoring the calls from the Scottish Government, the Resolution Foundation, the TUC and others for an extension beyond October where required to protect jobs. They are ignoring scientists concerned about a second surge.

“I’m not surprised to hear the Chancellor is a Star Wars fan. This statement seems to have been given from another planet, in a galaxy far, far away, where Covid-19 has just gone away and we can get back to business as usual. Unfortunately the virus did not get the memo.

“In the real world, damaging second waves of the epidemic remain a real threat. If this happens, the OECD predicts more than one in seven of the workforce could be out of a job by Christmas - far worse than under Margaret Thatcher in the 80s.

“It makes economic sense as well as public health sense to take things cautiously and extend the support while it’s needed. Social distancing remains essential, businesses continue to struggle and vital tourism is not coming back to Midlothian or the UK any time soon.

“If the UK Government keeps putting its head in the sand and ignoring those still in need of support, they must pass the powers to the Scottish Parliament so the Scottish Government can get on with doing what’s best to protect lives and jobs.”

Responding, Scottish Conservative List MSP Michelle Ballantyne said: “It is absolutely no surprise to me that the local SNP MP cannot bring himself to even utter one word of praise for the Chancellor’s wide-ranging announcements.

“Instead of talking up what the UK Government are delivering for Scotland, he would rather spend his time playing to the gallery of his supporters.

“In Midlothian alone the unprecedented furlough scheme has protected over 11,000 jobs that would otherwise have been lost.

“The SNP Government have over £4.6 billion worth of funding from the UK Government, dwarfing the entire education budget in Scotland.

“They simply cannot waste those billions and instead should be bold and ambitious when it comes to getting Midlothian back on it’s feet.

“Measures from the Chancellor such as the kickstart scheme for young people and the massive reduction in VAT for our tourism and hospitality industry are a huge shot in the arm for the Midlothian economy at a time when it so badly needs it.

“The UK Government have stepped up to support jobs, businesses and the economy during this pandemic and will continue to do so.

“It is time the SNP did the same, rather than continuing to moan from the sidelines.”