GIVE PEOPLE A UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME – BLACKFORD

The coronavirus outbreak is “an unprecedented emergency and it requires an unprecedented response,” according to the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford.

He told the House of Commons: “I welcome the fact that parties across the House, and Governments across these islands, have worked together as we attempt to protect all our peoples. It is the right approach and it is the least the public expect and deserve from us.

“Yesterday the Chancellor announced a £330 billion financial package for business. Today the UK Government need to announce a financial package for people. Members from six parties across the House have expressed support for a temporary universal basic income to help everyone, especially freelancers, renters and the self-employed.

“Using the current tax system, will the Prime Minister stand up and give a commitment today to provide people with the security of a universal basic income?”

Prime Minister Boris Johnston replied: “There is a huge amount of collaboration going on across all four nations of this country, as you can imagine.  We are in lockstep.

“What I would say on the right hon. Gentleman’s appeal for basic income is, do not underestimate the value to people of the measures that we have already announced that will support business, keep jobs going and make sure those businesses continue in existence.

“That must be the first step. As I have said repeatedly now to the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, it is important that throughout the crisis we take steps to support workers. The right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford) is quite right and the suggestion that he makes is, of course, one of many such suggestions.”

The SNP leader replied: “There is a willingness from all of us to work together as we go through this crisis, but thousands of people are already losing their jobs. It is happening today. Millions will face the same threat. They need reassurance and support, and they need it today. They need an income guarantee.

“We must not repeat history. People are worried about their bills and about keeping a roof over their head. In the last financial crisis, the banks were bailed out, but ordinary people were not.

“The Prime Minister has it in his power to protect people’s incomes and provide them with peace of mind.

“At this time, an emergency universal income scheme would do just that. Will he at least commit to meeting all of us who support that proposal to discuss how we can protect the incomes of all our peoples?

The Prime Minister replied: “Yes, indeed. I can make that commitment and I said as much in my earlier answer.

“It is very important that, as we go forward, we try to enlist a consensus in this House about how to support people throughout the crisis. I agree profoundly with what he said about not repeating history.

“It is very important that, as we ask the public to do the right thing for themselves and for everybody else, no one, whatever their income, should be penalised for doing the right thing, and we will make sure that that is the case.”


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