The Prime Minister has acknowledged that these are “tough times” for businesses and workers as he welcomed the Chancellor’s new scheme as the best thing for “growth in this country”.
Rishi Sunak unveiled a package of new measures in the Commons today that will let millions of workers go part time while keeping four-fifths of their earnings.
Boris Johnson was repeatedly challenged during Prime Minister’s Questions about the prospect of support being withdrawn from firms and workers despite the prospect of the latest restrictions being in place for six months.
“What we will do is continue to put our arms around the people of this country going through a very tough time and come up with the appropriate creative and imaginative schemes to keep them in work and keep the economy moving,” he said.
He added: “These are indeed tough times and I have no doubt that many businesses, many employees are feeling a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty and we will do our level best to protect them throughout this period.”
The furlough scheme has cost the Government £39.3 billion to date, with £3.9 billion between August 16 and September 20 alone, according to the latest figures.
When asked what he would say to those who were about to lose their jobs due to coronavirus cutbacks, the Prime Minister said: “The Chancellor is being totally realistic with people about the prospects of the economy.
“Things will be tough. What we’re saying to people who do the right thing – who self-isolate when they are contacted by NHS Test and Trace, they will get support – there’s £500 to support them.
“But there’s also a £10,000 fine potentially if you don’t comply and it’s absolutely vital that we all work together now to get the R down, get the virus back under control and simultaneously allow education and the economy to continue.
“That is the best thing for jobs and growth in this country.”
Mr Sunak delivered his plans in the House of Commons, but Mr Johnson was not there to support him as he was visiting police recruits in Northamptonshire.
Downing Street denied speculation about a rift between at the top of Government, insisting there was “absolutely not” a problem between the ministers.
Speaking about why he was not sat behind the Chancellor during Thursday’s economic statement, Mr Johnson told Sky News: “Of course, I fully support the package of measures that we’ve jointly drawn up.
“What I’m doing (in Northamptonshire) today is setting out the vital corollary of those measures.
“They won’t help unless everybody works together, we all work together, to drive the virus down and the way we can do that is to follow the guidance, the rule of six, stay spaced, make sure you self-isolate if you’re contacted by NHS Test and Trace – £500 if you do, £10,000 fine if you don’t.
“A £200 fine for not wearing a mask in the right place, a £10,000 fine potentially if you organise a gathering of more than 30 – these are very considerable fines and it is important that everybody works together to, as I say, drive the virus down now – stitch in time saves nine – and protect the economy.”