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Chair writes to Secretary of State on impact of coronavirus on businesses and workers

19 May 2020

Darren Jones Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee has written to Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to press the Government to respond to a series of concerns around safety in shops and workplaces and to outline the powers it intends to introduce to stop profiteering during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Darren Jones, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, said: “Many businesses are struggling to buy the right protective kit to make their workplaces COVID-19 secure. Immediate action is needed from Government to help small-and-medium sized businesses, in particular, to access the protection kit they need to get their businesses moving.

“I hope the Government will come forward with more detail on what they are doing to help businesses ensure their workplaces are Covid-19 secure and the action they are taking to help shops and other high-street business operate safely and restore consumer confidence.

“As a Committee, we heard from Which? about the ridiculous price hikes on products that are essential to consumers. Amid the rising number of complaints of coronavirus profiteering and examples of price-gouging, the Government should explain what emergency action it will take to ensure consumers are protected and that these sellers of products at over-inflated prices are penalised.

“Workers must be supported in these difficult times too. Many workers will be facing pressures to return to work while having concerns about the safety measures in place. To help reassure workers, I hope the Secretary of State will outline what support his Department is providing to ensure workplace disputes related to Covid-19 secure health and safety issues are resolved quickly.

“In our recent evidence session for our coronavirus inquiry, a series of business, worker, and consumer voices made the case for the Government to begin the thinking now on the levels of support which will be needed as the country moves out of lockdown and seeks to recover from this crisis. These issues around the next phases of support for businesses, workers, and consumers will be a focus for the BEIS Committee over the coming months.”

The correspondence follows the latest evidence session of the BEIS Committee’s on the impact of the coronavirus on businesses and workers (on Thursday 14th May ) where the Committee heard evidence from witnesses including representatives from TUC, the IoD and Which?

Impact of coronavirus on businesses and workers – terms of reference

The BEIS Committee’s inquiry initially focussed on the immediate impact and support offered to workers and businesses during the coronavirus crisis. Over the coming months, the inquiry will continue to keep a close eye on Government policy and its impact on businesses and workers, including the following key areas:

  • How different sectors and those in different forms of employment are affected by coronavirus;
  • The impact of support schemes and policies announced by the Government, including the Business Interruption Loan Scheme, Bounce Back Loan Scheme and Job Retention Scheme;
  • The likely needs of different sectors over the coming weeks and months, and at each alert level of the pandemic.

The Committee has held sessions on Thursday 14 May with Which?, TUC, and IoD, and a panel of international experts, and also with business representatives (on 17 March) and on the impact on small businesses and the retail sector (30 April). The Committee took evidence from the Secretary of State on 23 April on the Department's response to coronavirus.

Further information

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