My Lords, it is unfortunate that because, during the worst recession in two centuries, we have not had a full debate on the economy, we have to use this debate on the Finance Bill, but so be it.
Most recessions are the result of a shortfall of demand. This, uniquely, is caused by suppression of supply. There is considerable pent-up demand. I agree with my noble friend Lord Lamont, who said we must end the lockdown and encourage people to return to work, and Parliament itself and this House should set an example in that.
If we do so, and if the economy is enabled to, many businesses will spring back—more rapidly, I suspect, than some suppose—to full activity, but some sectors will have permanently shrunk. Many viable businesses have spent the last few months devising ways to produce previous levels of output with fewer employees, so we face a vast potential increase in unemployment, and unemployed buildings and other resources. We need to make it easier and quicker for new businesses to set up and expand, and for existing firms to expand, grow and diversify.
During the crisis, we have learned that public regulatory bodies can, in an emergency and under public pressure, take in days and weeks decisions that previously took months or years. We need to ensure that they do so henceforth to enable businesses to increase their activities rapidly. In most areas, we cannot scrap regulations, so we should accelerate decision-making in planning, building controls, environmental measures, health and safety and so on by, for example, setting time limits. If those time limits are not met, consent will be deemed to have been given. Every department should be required to publish at six-monthly intervals the times that it takes to give approvals or refusals or to make decisions when requested by business. Every Select Committee should hold those departments to account. Past experience has shown that the British labour market is more dynamic than any other in Europe; if we do this, we will be able rapidly to bring people back into work in viable and productive employment.