Punjab-born MP Virendra Sharma calls for urgent action on Covid-19 impact in Southall

The large Indian community in the London suburb of Southall is the hardest hit in terms of job losses due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has led to serious social issues such as domestic violence and abuse in homes, said Punjab-born senior Labour MP Virendra Sharma.

Sharma, who represents Ealing Southall since 2007, on Wednesday called for urgent action after chancellor Rishi Sunak’s recent announcements providing subsidy to companies and self-employed people to alleviate job losses, insisting that thousands of jobs were not protected under his schemes.

Tens of thousands of people in Southall, Sharma said, had been directly and indirectly affected by the job losses. The Boris Johnson government, he alleged, had not considered the social impact of the pandemic.

“Earlier, people used to be out of homes for work. Now, they remain at home 24 hours, which has its own implications. In our community, issues such as domestic and other violence are not spoken of due to ‘izzat’ (honour, but such incidents are on the rise. Drug abuse is also rising,” Sharma said.

Sunak has often declared that despite the multi-billion-pounds packages to protect employment, he would not be able to save every job.

According to Sharma, Sunak has described as “unviable” jobs in the wedding industry, events and exhibitions, major parts of the night-time economy like nightclubs and pubs, festivals, sports venues and theatres.

He said: “We have to act now not just to save some parts of the economy but all the jobs at risk across the country. This country is only as strong as the life choices of thousands around the country who will be left unemployed, so we must act now to protect them.”

The Indian community that has historically settled in Southall and nearby areas has recently faced major job losses, including at Heathrow and sectors associated with the airline industry.

Former Labour leader and shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said: “The chancellor is writing off thousands of businesses and a million workers, dismissing sectors that are shut down as ‘unviable’ and locking them out of government support.”

“That means the wedding industry, events, clubs, festivals and arts and sports venues are being labelled unviable simply because they are following public health guidance to help tackle the virus. This is insulting and wrong, and writing these businesses off will damage lives across the country and accelerate the job crisis.”

Punjab-born MP Virendra Sharma calls for urgent action on Covid-19 impact in Southall