Drew Hendry – 2020 Speech on Business and Covid-19

Below is the text of the speech made by Drew Hendry, the SNP MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, in the House of Commons on 12 May 2020.

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of his statement. Given that the Prime Minister previously attacked what he called the “health and safety fetish” as “madness”, and in 2009 said public warnings were “for the extremely stupid”, the fact that this Government are stressing the need for health and safety must be welcomed. However, it is important to give the utmost clarity.

I know that is what the Secretary of State will like to think he has done, but his advice is addressed to UK employers. Will he acknowledge, in the spirit of clarity, ​that his advice is for England only? The advice in the other nations of the UK remains to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. Lives are at stake. We must have complete clarity. Shops in Scotland are not scheduled for phased reopening from 1 June. Will he make that clear? His five-point plan does not apply at this time in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Will he make that clear?

We welcome the measures announced today to transition the furlough scheme, because business and people would be harmed by a cold restart without protection. However, before any reductions in furlough or rates of support start, we first need to fill the gaps for those left behind: those who had a contract or letter of employment by 29 March but whose employers have not logged into Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, those agency workers who are not included, staff whose pay is combined with commission, and the forgotten but vital summer seasonal workers. Will the Secretary of State make the case for those workers, or are they still to be left behind?

Finally, the Secretary of State has made great play—I quote from his statement—of

“Building a consensus and confidence when moving forward”.

Will he take that message back to the Cabinet and the Prime Minister, and extend it to the leaders of the devolved nations? His Government have consistently updated Fleet Street before this House, and even before the First Ministers of the devolved nations.