Business group the CBI has told MPs that “hundreds of thousands” of jobs could be at risk due to the disruption caused by coronavirus.
In a meeting of the Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee this morning, Labour MP Pat McFadden asked CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith if the group had an estimate of the number of jobs at risk.
Newton-Smith responded that the number of job losses would depend on the government’s response. She said this was a “critical moment” for business.
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Martin McTague, policy and advocacy chair for the Federation of Small Businesses, said the government would have to take the role of “benign employer” in terms of providing support for employees who have been laid off.
Newton-Smith urged the chancellor to provide loans in order for some companies to stay in business and continue to employ staff.
Today the British Beer and Pub Association wrote to prime minister Boris Johnson demanding urgent steps to prevent job losses in the sector after government advice emerged to stay away from bars and restaurants.
Chief executive Emma McClarkin said: “The UK pub and brewing industry is tonight facing an existential crisis as a direct result of the guidance issued by the government today.
“Thousands of pubs and hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost in the very short term unless a proactive package creating cash and liquidity is provided immediately to the industry.
“Forced pub closures without a meaningful support package will have a catastrophic financial and social impact.”
She asked the government to cancel tax payments including PAYE, VAT and corporation tax for six months, and postpone the planned minimum and living wage increases due in April.
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said that without decisive action from the UK government, airports would shut down in weeks, with a catastrophic effect on jobs.
She said: “Governments across the world are supporting their national aviation industries, as many parts of the global travel industry have come to a halt.
“As some airlines call on the UK government to act similarly, we are clear that airports will shut down in weeks unless urgent action is taken to support the industry.”
Yesterday Vauxhall owner Groupe PSA said it would temporarily close plants across Europe due to the acceleration of the virus and its impact on automobile markets, and Virgin Atlantic was the latest airline to ask staff to take unpaid leave.
The government is expected to announce further financial measures today in response to the worsening pandemic. Yesterday (16 March) the government announced new guidance that people should work from home where possible and stop all unnecessary travel.