Ed Miliband: "This is an economic emergency, Chancellor must improve support schemes"

15 April 2020, 15:25

By Fiona Jones

The Shadow Business Secretary explained why it is crucial the Chancellor improves the business support scheme in the next 24 hours.

Shelagh asked Shadow Business Secretary Ed Miliband how he believes the Treasury's support scheme for businesses and employees can be improved.

Mr Miliband cited figures which revealed only 6000 of the six million SMEs are taking loans under the government's scheme.

"That is simply not good enough...I think the government should be commended for setting up a scheme but now it's got to be made to work," he said, recounting that many businesses have shared their deep frustration of having to wait a long time to get a verdict on funding.

"I think lots of businesses are making the decision about whether they can carry on," Ed Miliband said, comparing the 6000 loans given by the UK government in three weeks to Switzerland giving 70,000 loans in the first week.

Ed Miliband said the Chancellor must react quickly to this economic emergency
Ed Miliband said the Chancellor must react quickly to this economic emergency. Picture: PA

"I think the Chancellor does carry the fate of a lot of businesses in his hands in the decisions he makes in the coming days.

In order to quicken the scheme, "the number 1 thing to do is 100% underwrite small loans through government."

Currently 80% of the loan is underwritten by the govt and the rest is being shouldered by the banks, which is why the process is "taking so long," he explained, "we've got to oil the wheels in the next 24, 48 hours...we're in a crucial 10 day period."

The Shadow Business Secretary urged the Chancellor to make the decision on government underwriting 100% and promptly, acknowledging that in normal times this may not be the chosen path, but must be in this economic emergency.

Agreeing with Labour leader Keir Starmer, Mr Miliband said we do need a lockdown exit strategy to be laid out by the government for two reasons; because businesses need to know how we're going to come out of it and also so the House of Commons can debate and scrutinise the strategy collectively.

"Getting the economic measures right will allow the health measures to be in place as long as necessary."