The Chancellor was confronted with Martin Lewis’ stark figures on the number of people who have allegedly fallen out of any financial support scheme offered by the Government during the coronavirus crisis by BBC One host Andrew Marr. Mr Marr asked: “Martin Lewis says that three million have fallen through the safety net. Three million people, he says, are excluded from support schemes if they’ve changed jobs, have started a business over the last 18 months, been freelance, or worked for an agency.
“What will you do for them? It’s a lot of people.”
But Rishi Sunak argued he would have to “quibble” with Mr Lewis’ numbers as he claimed he had to make “difficult and fast decisions” when he announced the furlough scheme.
He said: “I might quibble with some of the numbers but I have enormous respect for Martin.
“What I’d say is that I fully acknowledge what I said recently, we absolutely have not been able to help every single person in exactly the way that they would like to have been helped – in spite of the fact that we’ve put enormous support in place.
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“The reason for that is straight forward.
“We were confronted with something at such speed and at such severity in scale, that we needed to move very fast.
“And we needed to put in place support mechanisms that could help as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
“And in doing that, we had to make difficult decisions. I had to make some difficult decisions.”
The Chancellor also said that a decision on whether to ease the two-metre rule in England will be for ministers rather than the Government’s scientific advisers.
Mr Sunak said the public would take confidence from the fact ministers were being advised by chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty.
“Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance throughout all of this have provided advice to ministers,” he told Mr Marr.
“Ultimately it is for ministers. We are the people who are elected to make decisions in this country. People should hold us responsible and accountable for making those decisions.
“I think that people are comforted and have confidence in those decisions if they know that we are taking advice from our scientists.”
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The Chancellor also hinted at a potential U-turn on the Government’s two-week quarantine rule for people entering the country.
He said the Government is looking at options to be able to make changes to the rules.
Mr Sunak said: “We all want to see travel open again, of course we do, and like everything else we want to make sure we have the right measures at the right time informed by the science and everything else that we have to consider.
“We are looking at all options to ensure that that is possible and people have got suggestions about how we might be able to open up some travel corridors over time and so the transport secretary is actively looking at all of those options.”
The government has come under heavy pressure from the travel industry and other sectors over the quarantine policy which it introduced last week. Airlines said it will hammer jobs and tourism.