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Urgent question on Government's economic package

12 May 2020 (updated on 12 May 2020)

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Today, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Anneliese Dodds, asked an Urgent Question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, to update the House on the Government's economic package in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak began by telling the House that this Government's plan is one of the most comprehensive anywhere in the world, adding, “we have provided billions of pounds of cash grants, tax cuts and loans for over a million businesses.”

Rishi Sunak MP: "Job Retention Scheme will be extended for four months."

The Chancellor said, “We believe in the dignity of work” and stressed that the government is doing what it can to protect people currently unable to work.

He outlined to the Chamber the next stage of the Government's Job Retention Scheme as the economy re-opens. The Chancellor told the House that people will be supported back to work in a measured way.

Mr Sunak said:

“I can announce today that the Job Retention Scheme will be extended for four months, until the end of October. By that point we will have provided eight months of support to British people and businesses. Until the end of July there will be no changes whatsoever, then from August to October the scheme will continue for all sectors and regions of the UK, but with greater flexibility to support the transition back to work.”

He added that employers currently using the scheme will be able to bring furloughed employees back part time, saying “we will ask employers to start sharing with the Government, the cost of paying peoples' salaries.” The Chancellor told the House that full details of the scheme will follow by the end of May.

Mr Sunak told the House:

“I want to assure people of one thing that won't change – workers will through the combined efforts of government and employers, continue to receive the same level of overall support as they do now, at 80% of their current salary, up to £2,500 a month.”

Anneliese Dodds MP: "people [...] taken aback by comments made in the media by government spokespeople."

Addressing the House, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Anneliese Dodds,said that “as a constructive opposition we want to work with the Government to ensure that peoples' jobs and incomes are protected, and a critical element of that is the furlough scheme.”

She told that House that many of the six million people who were furloughed were taken aback by comments made in the media by government spokespeople suggesting that “for example people need to be weaned off and addiction to this scheme.”

Ms Dodds added that:

“there were many intimations coming that changes might have been announced to that scheme by the Chancellor, potentially in the media without the opportunity for proper scrutiny.”

The Shadow Chancellor added that she welcomes the flexibility mentioned, and that the Opposition has asked for this repeatedly, adding “it has been a long time coming.”

Speaking about the employer contribution which will come along with the flexibility, the Shadow Chancellor said that more information must be provided on this, as well as on the alternatives to this scheme.

She said:

“Other countries have job creation training schemes, redeployment schemes – we do not have them yet” and that this support is desperately needed."

Image: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

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