On Tuesday 10th November a Government statement on the economy was repeated in the House of Lords. The Bishop of Portsmouth responded and asked a question:
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth [V]: My Lords, I welcome the Government’s desire to protect jobs and livelihoods, but can the Minister confirm that the extension of the furlough scheme until March—a full five months—is based on the assumption and expectation that those jobs, or at least the vast majority of them, will be ready to return to unchanged? That is a bold assumption. If it is not the case, what strategy do the Government have now for addressing the transitional challenges for those whose jobs will disappear? This Statement was made late, in haste. Tackling the jobs issue in March is tackling it too late.
Lord Agnew of Oulton (Con): I share the concerns of the right reverend Prelate about jobs. The honest answer is that we do not have enough visibility on the impact to the economy beyond March. Coming out of lockdown, we saw a steady reduction in the number of people using the furlough scheme. It dropped every month from July to August to September. I do not have all the information yet, but hopefully it will be published shortly. The key is whether we can avoid extending this awful lockdown beyond 2 December. I am confident that if we can avoid that, we will see a rapid pick up of the economy, which will hopefully reduce the number of job losses that the right reverend Prelate is so concerned about.