Today in the House, Nickie asked Nadhim Zahawi MP, Minister for Business and Industry, two questions during a debate focusing on the support available to businesses struggling to deal with the impact of COVID-19.
As well as asking about general support available to businesses, Nickie also asked a second question regarding whether bookshops should be allowed to remain open during current national restrictions.
Nickie Aiken MP - What steps his Department is taking to support businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Nadhim Zahawi MP - My Department continues to deliver a wide range of measures to support UK business. We have extended our loan schemes across the board, which have already delivered over £62 billion of finance, until the end of January, and the new local authority grants will also offer further support to businesses affected by the national restrictions.
Nickie Aiken MP - I thank the Minister for his reply. During this second lockdown, many of us are likely to find comfort in reading. My constituent David Campbell, who runs Everyman’s Library, has written—with the backing of over 20 leading authors, including Salman Rushdie, Simon Jenkins and Sebastian Faulks—to the Prime Minister asking that books be considered an essential item for sale during the current restrictions. Does my hon. Friend agree that, to support small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis, it would be preferable that local independent shops, which are based in the heart of their local communities and often employ local people, remain open and secure sales, rather than a global internet brand?
Nadhim Zahawi MP - My hon. Friend makes an important point. It is a very difficult decision that we have grappled with. Independent bookshops are of great importance to local communities, with books playing a vital role in people’s mental health and wellbeing. The decision to close non-essential retail is part of a wider package of measures to make it clear that people should stay at home and accept this for a limited period of time. Of course, bookshops can offer delivery and click-and-collect services, which I am sure that her constituent, David Campbell, is probably considering.
You can watch the Minister's response to both questions above.