Europe

Rishi Sunak on the spot as furlough scheme draws to end: ‘You said whatever it takes’

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Rishi Sunak committed his and the Treasury’s efforts to ensure the British economy survived and recovered from the shutdown brought by the coronavirus pandemic. Chancellor Sunak however announced in June the Government will proceed to shut down the job retention scheme that helped save millions of jobs in October despite the ongoing economic uncertainty facing the UK. BBC Today presenter Mishal Husain challenged Mr Sunak’s pledge to help as she questioned Business Minister Alok Sharma: “The Chancellor promised, didn’t he, in March ‘whatever it takes’ for the British economy. 

“What if what you’ve promised is not enough?”

Mr Sharma defended the decision to shut down the scheme, insisting the Treasury had set out a series of new schemes aimed at relaunching the economy and boosting employment.

He said: “If you look at the sum total of the support we provided, it is one of the most generous and comprehensive in the world.

“And what is really important as we go forward is we make sure we are providing opportunities for young people, opportunities for jobs, and you’re seeing through the schemes the Chancellor has announced the support for training schemes, apprenticeships, and, of course, we also have support for green jobs. 

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“That’s the direction of travel you will see from the Government.”

But Ms Husain hit back: “This has been the first month of Government support through the furlough job retention scheme tapering down.

“France meanwhile has extended its equivalence scheme for two years, Germany is expected to extend its version this week.

“Italy and Spain are also working on different types of new support. Are we becoming outliers in sticking with what’s already been announced?”

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Mr Sharma said: “We’re talking about £160billion worth of support, part of that protecting 12 million jobs across all industries.

“Actually, the package of support that the UK Government has provided is one of the most generous and comprehensive in the world.

“I think the key issue now is we need to continue to open up the economy in a phased and cautious manner, we need to get businesses back up and running and that’s what we’ve been doing.

“And if you look at the Chancellor’s Summer Statement there’s support for job creation.”

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