I voted today to support the new lockdown measures to reverse the rapidly increase in Covid-19 transmissions, while regretting that the Government was acting too late again.
I used the opportunity of the debate on the proposals to raise my wider concerns about the Government’s handling of the crisis, highlighting the plight of those who have fallen through gaps in the financial support schemes, particularly in small businesses and among the self-employed, and especially in the hospitality and creative sectors.
The short debate didn’t provide time to discuss all the ill-considered rules and deadlines today, but I asked Ministers to agree to meet representatives of those excluded. I also pressed the Government to make the temporary £20 a week increase to the Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit permanent from April – and to extending it to ‘legacy benefits’.
I took the opportunity to pay tribute to the key workers who have kept the country going throughout the crisis – and urged the Government to tackle the low pay and fragile employment those in the private sector often face, as well as giving those in the public sector the pay increase they deserve – not the pay freeze they don’t.
Finally I highlighted that the first vaccine to enter British arms was developed by Turkish-origin scientists in Germany with an American company and manufactured in Belgium, making the point that we need an international response to an international crisis and urging Ministers to work to ensure the vaccine also reaches those who desperately need it in low income countries.