THE GOVERNMENT must learn lessons from its response to the coronavirus crisis, MP Mark Pawsey has told business leaders in the region.
The Rugby MP was speaking to companies on the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce’s #PolicyHour video call.
Mr Pawsey, who sits on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Select Committee, said the overriding feedback from firms was they were grateful for the speed of the response from government in its support packages through the crisis.
He also informed businesses the BEIS Select Committee was writing to the Secretary of State Alok Sharma, on the back of its research, to help government learn key lessons should a second spike occur and lead to more support being required.
Mr Pawsey said: “The message I have picked up from companies is that they recognise how quickly the government responded to the economic impact of the crisis and immediately put support in place. In ordinary circumstances, these kinds of measures would have taken much longer to implement because they would have undergone a lengthy assessment process to test their potential impact.
“But there wasn’t the time for that as support was needed urgently. Of course, what that speed meant was that there were gaps in the support and businesses and organisations such as the Chamber were very quick to highlight those.
“For example, the option to furlough staff proved very popular with companies at the outset of the crisis but some businesses asked for greater flexibility – which the Chancellor later introduced. I understand the concerns that the CBILS (Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme) was too strict in its criteria. Again, the Bounce Back Loans helped to address that. So, it’s important that we learn these lessons because if we do have to go through this again we can be better prepared and more targeted with the support on offer.”
Mr Pawsey added businesses would also have learned valuable lessons.
“I believe it will give some companies food for thought on where they source their products. You may have found something cheaper overseas previously but, when it comes to the crunch, if you can’t rely on your supply chain in a crisis you may want to be able to source it more locally in the long run.”
Sean Rose, policy officer at the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, thanked Mr Pawsey for his insights.
He added: “There is no doubt that Government support for businesses is going to need to continue and the feedback from the BEIS Select Committee will be extremely insightful.”