Wednesday 14 October 2020 / 5:10 PM Anneliese Dodds / Coronavirus / Economy

Rishi Sunak refuses to deny he vetoed SAGE recommendation for Covid-19 circuit breaker

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has refused to deny reports that he vetoed recommendations by scientists for a two-week ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Minutes released by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) show ministers were urged to introduce a circuit breaker lockdown on 21 September 2020.

It has since been reported that Rishi Sunak “battled scientists” in a bid to “see off circuit breaker lockdown”.

During an Opposition Day Debate on the Covid-19 economic support package today, the Chancellor declined an invitation from Labour Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds to set the record straight.

Labour has been clear that a package of support would need to be provided for jobs and businesses impacted by a circuit breaker. Labour’s motion for the debate also called on the Government to:

  • Support areas with additional local restrictions, currently the North of England and parts of the Midlands, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Reform the Job Support Scheme so it incentivises employers to keep staff on rather than letting them go
  • Ensure no one is pushed into poverty when they do the right thing
  • Provide clear, consistent and fair funding that goes hand-in-hand with the imposition of new restrictions, including using the £1.3 billion underspend on the grants fund to support local jobs
  • Fix gaps in support for the self-employed
  • Extend the ban on evictions

The motion was defeated by the Government.

Anneliese Dodds MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, said:

“We’ve had the highest level of excess deaths in Europe and the deepest recession in the G7 – and now the Government has lost control of the virus.

“That’s why we need a circuit breaker to protect the NHS, fix testing and protect jobs and livelihoods.

“The Chancellor had the chance to clarify whether he blocked SAGE’s recommendation to introduce a circuit breaker. He refused.

“Blocking a circuit breaker doesn’t make sense for public health and it doesn’t make sense for our economy. If the Chancellor disagrees, he should explain why.”