Caroline Nokes – 2020 Speech on Protecting Jobs

The speech made by Caroline Nokes, the Conservative MP for Romsey and Southampton North, in the House of Commons on 9 September 2020.

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, and that might mean some of the niceties go out of the window.

My right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary is absolutely right to have identified the great long list of support that has gone to business, and I thank him for doing so because I now do not have to. I welcome the presence on the Front Bench of my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury. I would like to pay particular tribute to him for the help he has given me with individual constituency cases, particularly, I note, with one small business and Lloyds Banking Group. The hon. and learned Member for Edinburgh South West (Joanna Cherry) has just left—in time for me to make that point.

I want to put on record some local perspective of where businesses in Romsey and Southampton North have had assistance: over 10,000 jobs protected by the furlough scheme; £9.5 million to self-employed people; more than £42 million of bounce back loans; and £17.5 million in business grants. Those are very significant figures. The borough council has worked hand in hand with the Government in reaching out to small businesses, making sure all those who are eligible applied and received assistance. Some 47,000 meals have been eaten via eat out to help out. Could my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary pass on to the Chancellor the particular thanks of the lady I met in the Cromwell Arms in Romsey who wanted to talk about the “lovely local lad” who is of course my right hon. Friend the Chancellor?

Turning to the issue of ongoing support for local businesses, I was pleased to hear this week from Simon Parkes of Elumin8, a Romsey-based business making advanced lighting systems for the automotive industry. He is looking to recruit between three and five new employees—young employees—as soon as possible, and is keen to make the kickstart scheme work not just for his business, but for the benefit of such unemployed young people. Both he and the local council are working with the local enterprise partnership to bring together the minimum number of 30 needed so that more local businesses will be able to benefit. It is great to see the determination to make schemes work and get young people into real jobs who will then enable his business, even in difficult economic times, to thrive and grow.

I commend the support that has gone to hospitality. We know it is a sector that employs many young people and, indeed, many women—an interest I have particularly. I pay tribute to the Four Horseshoes in Nursling, which is continuing the scheme on its own terms, and I know across the country many are doing the same. However, it would be remiss of me not to return to a sector that I have raised many times in this House and will continue to champion. The beauty industry employs over 370,000 people, over 90% of whom are women. They have stayed locked down longer than other industries, and in some parts of the country they remain locked down, so I welcome the grants that my right hon. Friend has mentioned.

The green homes scheme is a great scheme and one that can provide energy efficiency and jobs, but please can we make it as wide as possible, so that companies ​such as Kelda Technology in my constituency, which makes showers, can also benefit from it, reducing energy costs through reducing water heating costs?

Finally, on those in the events industry, my right hon Friend the Chancellor is working really hard to rebalance the economy, but these are small businesses which, if allowed to thrive, will in turn be paying tax in years to come, enabling us to rebalance the economy.