Rishi Sunak has told talkRADIO that spending £12 billion to tackle the impact of coronavirus was “the right thing to do” for the mid-term economy and the “immediate challenges”.
The Chancellor delivered his first Budget yesterday, unveiling a huge £30 billion of extra spending for the year ahead.
With almost half of that money destined to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak, Mr Sunak told Julia Hartley-Brewer that the Budget “manages the nation’s finances responsibly”.
He said: “I delivered it within the fiscal rules that we set out in our manifesto that ensure that debt is falling over the Parliament.
“I think that's the right thing to do for the economy at this time but of course to respond in scale for the immediate challenges that we face.”
Coronavirus was yesterday labelled a pandemic by the World Health Organisation and Boris Johnson will today chair an emergency Cobra meeting to discuss entering the next stage of the “battle plan”.
Moving into the “delay” phase will accept that the outbreak can no longer be contained in the UK and work will now be done to slow the spread of the virus rather than stop it altogether.
The expected shift in UK policy came as Donald Trump dramatically escalated the US response to the coronavirus pandemic, introducing a 30-day travel ban on continental Europe, excluding the UK and Ireland.
Mr Sunak said the government was “working around the clock” to ensure that the British public remain “safe, healthy and economically secure”.
He said: “This will have a significant impact on our economy but our belief is that it will be temporary.
“My job is to make sure that this temporary hit to our economy doesn’t become permanent and that’s why the interventions yesterday were in particular targeted at protecting people’s jobs.”
He warned that a “difficult period” lies ahead but added that he “stands ready to respond” if the government is required to do more.
Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Peter Dowd said the government had Labour’s support in their response to the virus but said there were some areas of concerns over sick pay.
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