Earlier this week, the Prime Minister said: “our long national hibernation is beginning to come to an end”. Whilst many have been working even harder than ever – from health and care workers, police, teachers and council workers to supermarket staff, postal workers and delivery drivers – to keep Britain going, much of everyday life has been on hold.

Happily, some of the restrictions that have stopped us from seeing family and friends – and have stopped so many businesses from trading – can now start to be eased thanks to immense tremendous sacrifices by the public and the most comprehensive economic support package anywhere in the world.

We were fortunate that, at the start of this outbreak, our economy was in a healthy position with the deficit much lower and the number of people in work much higher than ten years ago. Without such a strong economy, the Government couldn’t have borrowed the money for the furlough scheme, or the money going to local councils and the NHS.

More than 11 million employees and 1 million employers have benefited from the furlough scheme; and over 2.6 million self-employed people have drawn on the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme – action that has never been taken before in times of war, disease or recession.

I know that the support available for so many has – if anything – made it even more difficult for those who, for various reasons, have not been able to access these schemes. They are particularly desperate to begin trading again.

As lockdown rules are gradually relaxed and shops begin to reopen, it is vital that we support businesses locally – whether they are High Street brands or small family firms. People’s livelihoods depend on us being able to reignite our economy, secure jobs, and create the prosperity that local people need.

Despite the huge economic support packages provided, sadly many people have already lost their jobs. The number of people out of work in Dudley South has doubled since the start of the outbreak, and it is likely that more jobs will be lost later this year as it will take time for many businesses to recover. We can all do our part in minimising the number of jobs lost, by supporting our local shops and businesses as they reopen safely.

Last week we lost one of our nation’s great icons, Dame Vera Lynne. In one of her most loved songs she sang the words: “There'll always be an England, while there's a busy street, wherever there's a turning wheel, a million marching feet."

In other words, business and enterprise are part of our national character. Securing our economic future is vital to safeguarding people’s living standards and ability to fund public services.

Be it our high streets, our shopping centres, our pubs and restaurants, or the services of our local tradesmen – they need our help, now more than ever.“