Second Reading – 29 June 2020

The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (Alok Sharma): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Covid-19 has had a profound impact across the economy. It required many businesses to shut their doors on 23 March, and they have taken a significant economic hit to protect the public’s health, so it was vitally important, at the start of this pandemic, that we put our arms around businesses to provide them with support to protect our people’s livelihoods at the same time as we protected our nation’s health.

So far, the job retention scheme has supported over 9 million jobs; 2.6 million people have been helped by the self-employment scheme; over 850,000 small businesses have benefited from around £10.5 billion in grants; and over £40 billion of Government-backed loans have been made to over 970,000 businesses. Every one of these interventions has helped individual families in each of our constituencies, but we are now reopening the economy in a cautious and phased manner, and the measures in the Bill are designed to provide a boost to businesses to help them as they look to bounce back from a period of enforced hibernation.

On 25 June, the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill received Royal Assent, and I thank the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband) and all colleagues for their support in an expeditious passage for that Bill. Similarly, I hope we will be able to expedite the passage of the Business and Planning Bill. I acknowledge the very constructive discussions that we have had on the individual measures in the Bill with the shadow Secretary of State and, indeed, all shadow Ministers.

The overall aim of the Bill is to provide an adrenaline boost to key sectors of our economy. We want to support the hospitality sector by allowing outdoor dining and off-premises sale of alcohol, helping the sector back on its feet with the promise of al fresco dining for all this summer.

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