Starmer: Arcadia’s collapse threatens to ‘rip the heart out’ of high streets

Topshop Topman store on Princes Street, Edinburgh
Topshop Topman store on Princes Street, Edinburgh (PA Wire)
12:49pm, Wed 02 Dec 2020
CBAD8A00-D2B9-4E0E-ADDF-D0366C357A34 Created with sketchtool. E9A4AA46-7DC3-48B8-9CE2-D75274FB8967 Created with sketchtool. 65CCAE04-4748-4D0F-8696-A91D8EB3E7DC Created with sketchtool.

Boris Johnson must bring forward a comprehensive plan to save retail jobs given more than 200,000 have been lost this year, Labour has urged.

Sir Keir Starmer warned the collapse of the Arcadia Group and Debenhams in recent days threatens to “rip the heart out” of many high streets across the country.

He pressed Mr Johnson to act during their exchanges at Prime Minister’s Questions.

Mr Johnson confirmed Business Secretary Alok Sharma has written to the Insolvency Service asking for it to examine the conduct of Arcadia’s directors, and defended the Government’s action to protect jobs.

Some 13,000 staff at Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group face an anxious wait following the business collapsing into administration.

Arcadia’s brands include Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton.

And Debenhams, which is already in administration, has said it would start a liquidation process after JD Sports confirmed it had pulled out of a possible rescue.

The department store has around 12,000 staff.

Speaking in the Commons Labour leader Sir Keir said of these developments: “That’s put 25,000 jobs at risk and caused huge anxiety to many families at the worst possible time and threatens to rip the heart out of many high streets in our towns and cities.

“So can the Prime Minister tell the House what is he going to do now to protect the jobs and the pensions of all those affected by these closures?”

Mr Johnson replied: “We’re looking at what we can do to protect all the jobs that have been lost across the country and (Mr Sharma) has written to the Insolvency Service to look at the conduct of the Arcadia directors.

“We will be doing everything we can to restore the high streets of this country with our £1 billion high streets fund and the levelling up fund.”

Sir Keir went on: “Over 200,000 retail jobs have been lost this year. That’s 200,000 individuals and their families, 20,000 stores have been closed on our high street and that’s before the latest restrictions.

“Now I suspect if we’d seen that scale of job losses in any other sector, there would have been much greater action already.

“So I urge the Prime Minister to take this seriously, don’t deflect, as well as providing emergency support, will the Prime Minister work with us, with the trade unions and the sector to finally bring forward a comprehensive plan to save retail jobs and to provide the sector with the much greater support it needs through this crisis?”

Mr Johnson replied: “We’re of course supporting every job we possibly can, as well as supporting every life and livelihood with a £200 billion programme.”

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