Coronavirus: Coastal MP urges government to pay those who lose jobs
PUBLISHED: 15:18 20 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:18 20 March 2020
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
An MP on the region’s coast has urged the government to give grants to those financially affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Peter Aldous, Conservative MP for Waveney, criticised the government’s “emphasis on the benefit system” for those who cannot claim statutory sick pay, suggesting there are “fundamental flaws” with Universal Credit.
“With Universal Credit there is a five week wait, and the fact you are getting a loan rather than a grant, people quite frankly will have serious financial challenges,” he said.
“The idea of having a loan you have to repay is not acceptable. Rather than providing support through the benefits system, it is by far better to do it through payroll.”
The MP also claimed the government “must not be putting any impediment” on businesses in the hospitality industry claiming insurance payments, after the prime minister urged people to not attend pubs while stopping short of ordering them to close.
However the MP added he believed Boris Johnson was “not being too Draconian” and was willing to listen.
He said: “I think it is very important that we must not be putting any impediment in the way of people or businesses being able to claim on their insurance and that is a point I think the prime minister is mindful of.”
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Mr Aldous made the comments after a number of debates in the House of Commons this week.
On Tuesday, March 17, during the chancellor of the exchequer’s economic update, the MP for East Ham Stephen Timms pointed out that “for somebody who is self-employed, self-isolation will often mean giving up their income. The advice is to claim benefit, but all someone gets with Universal Credit in the first five weeks, as has been pointed out, is a loan. People are not going to give up their incomes for that.”
Mr Aldous later urged the chancellor to take on board these concerns, claiming loans are the “fundamental flaw with Universal Credit”, with both MPs asking Rishi Sunak to replace benefits with non-repayable grants during the coronavirus outbreak.
Rishi Sunak said that from now, “depending on the particular circumstances of the person who is self-employed, they may well qualify for [Employment and Support Allowance], which is also available.”
During the same discussion, Mr Aldous highlighted the “vital work that food banks, citizens advice and local churches will be doing in the coming weeks”, calling for the chancellor to ensure the right support for them.
“They may need basic financial support to assist them to assist people,” he explained. “Nothing dramatic, but they will need some level of funding to address people’s immediate needs and concerns and help identify those who need help.”
Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak said: “I wholeheartedly agree with my honourable friend about the importance of our voluntary sector, particularly at this time, and the vital role that it will play.
“It is right that it gets our support. The Communities Secretary is actively engaging with it and I stand ready to do more as needed.”