"Unsurprisingly, this Budget is all about holding the line and keeping things alive so that when we do emerge, blinking, into the sunshine of a bright new future, this nation is prepared to take its rightful place at the centre of the world’s stage. It is about keeping working people going so that we do not bleed talent away. It is about maintaining our structural heritage so that everything from the mightiest theatre to the smallest village hall is ready to throw open its doors to re-engage with our communities. It is about supporting businesses, large and small. It is also about delivering all this in a cost-effective way so that our children, and our children’s children’s children, are not lumbered with a totally unmanageable debt.
"It is also worth remembering that it was only in 2015 that George Osborne announced that we were to make the final payment on the loans for the first world war. With the coronavirus outbreak, we have now entered similar unpleasant territory. With well over a third of a trillion pounds already thrown at the management of this terrible pandemic, we must tread cautiously. We must keep things going until our economy can stand on its own two feet once more. Then we must build that economy so that through the efforts of the people of these islands, this massive debt is reduced rapidly and is manageable for future generations.
"With all that in mind, I am happy to support the Budget, as it delivers significant value to my constituents and helps our businesses through the end of lockdown. Importantly, to my mind, this Budget extends and ends the furlough scheme in a very sensible way. Many residents in Clacton will be dependent on furlough. The scheme currently supports 880,000 jobs in the east of England. The scheme is also protecting jobs: only 10% of local businesses have been forced to lay off someone because of the pandemic, according to the results of a covid recovery survey that I ran recently. That is why I have always believed that furlough needs to be in place until restrictions are fully lifted, and the tapered ending is the right approach, which will help businesses to manage costs after reopening. Alongside furlough, I am pleased that 600,000 new claimants are now eligible for self-employment income support schemes. It is right that we deliver these two new grants in this financial year.
"One of my major concerns is the fate of the freelancers who have so far fallen through the cracks of the support schemes, unable to access them, so I hope that these changes will be of benefit to them. Many of those freelancers are of course involved in the arts, and I am sure that they will appreciate the additional £408 million to help that sector recover, but as I warned in my speech last week, we must ensure that that support remains in place even after restrictions are lifted. One note of warning: if we do not support the creative sector—the fastest-growing sector—we will have a hard job indeed getting out of this economic nightmare."