I welcome the Government’s decision to finally bring forward further national restrictions across England from 5th November. I believe this is now necessary in order to try and get control of the virus. I am disappointed that the Government ignored Labour’s calls for a two to three-week ‘circuit break’ in England on 13 October to coincide with school half-terms. This would have been shorter, perhaps more effective and caused less economic damage. Instead, the Government were again behind the curve and waited until the last possible moment to introduce extra restrictions. This lack of leadership has caused further unnecessary anxiety, infections and sadly deaths. The Labour Party is calling on the Government to use this second lockdown to rectify their mistakes, fix the test and trace system and get control of the virus.
I am continuing to receive a considerable amount of casework from constituents who have been significantly impacted by the pandemic. In the last month I have received over 350 emails from constituents with individual problems. I am working through them as quickly as possible, making representations on their behalf to the Government and others.
Supporting the Self-Employed
Throughout the pandemic, I have raised concerns over the Government’s support for the self-employed. I have made representations to government agencies and wrote directly to the Chancellor on issues such as the 50% income threshold.
I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement of a Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) Grant Extension which will fund 80% of trading profits for November. However, this only works out at 55% of trading profits over the three months of November, December, and January due to the reduced grant over the latter two months.
Labour are calling on the Chancellor to bring forward a long-term plan of at least six months which will set out the support and certainty workers need. This plan should include more standardised levels of support available to regions of the country that might have to retain stricter coronavirus restrictions following this second lockdown, rather than the unfair piecemeal approach in September and October for areas including the North East.
Funding for the North
I am concerned about the allocation of funding to areas in the North that have seen a higher number of coronavirus cases than other parts of the country. I joined my Labour Parliamentary colleagues in the North East in writing to Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary on this issue when our region was placed under further restrictions.
Separately, Labour are calling for a Cabinet Office inquiry into the questionable situation surrounding the awarding of funding to towns in the constituencies of the Housing Secretary and the Local Growth Minister. It would not be appropriate to state that funding had been awarded on a politically advantageous basis, but I believe an enquiry should try to determine whether this was allocated fairly.