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.”