Furlough POLL: Should Rishi Sunak extend scheme past the end of April?

Vaccine: Mark Harper discusses rollout targets

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The Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme, introduced by Mr Sunak at the start of the first lockdown last year, enables people who are unable to work – for example, because their workplaces have been forced to close – to claim up to 80 percent of their monthly wages, capped at £2,500. Westminster insiders believe Mr Sunak is likely to extend the scheme, initially scheduled to finish on April 30, until the summer, providing further support as Britain attempts to get back on its feet following the rollout of the coronavirus vaccine.

However, speaking to Express.co.uk, former Brexit Party MP Ben Habib urged Mr Sunak to reconsider.

He said: “I can understand why Rishi Sunak might wish to extend furlough but it is a mistake.

“The Government has done one thing right extremely well and that is to get the population vaccinated fast.

“Having done that we must now get back to work.

“To delay is to cause unnecessary damage to an already greatly damaged economy.”

Emphasising the need for a return to normality, Mr Habib also urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will reveal his roadmap out of lockdown tomorrow, to resist the temptation to impose any further lockdown restrictions once the current ones are lifted.

He explained: “The Prime Minister needs to end lockdowns and get on with the job of opening up the country.

“People’s well-being and livelihoods depend on it.”

Speaking to BBC One’s Andrew Marr on Sunday, former Government chief whip Mark Harper was hopeful the Prime Minister’s road map would be one the Covid Recovery Group of Tories can support.

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He added: “We think by the end of April the case for domestic legal restrictions, limiting what people can do, falls away.

“We think at that point people should be able to get on with their lives.

“The Government may still give them health advice and there may be things people do voluntarily, but the legal restrictions should fall away at the end of April.”

Asked about the possibility of a Commons revolt over the continuation of the current restrictions if the road map failed to meet their demands, Mr Harper added: “I’m hoping what the Prime Minister announces tomorrow will be something that I and my colleagues can support.”

Mr Sunak has already extended the furlough scheme once.

Speaking in December, he said: “Our package of support for businesses and workers continues to be one of the most generous and effective in the world – helping our economy to recover and protecting livelihoods across the country.

“We know the premium businesses place on certainty, so it is right that we enable them to plan ahead regardless of the path the virus takes, which is why we’re providing certainty and clarity by extending this support.”

He also said he would be extending the government-guaranteed Covid-19 business loan schemes until the end of next month.

Business Secretary, Alok Sharma added: “While our loan schemes have provided a vital lifeline to millions of firms across the country, we know that business owners need additional certainty as we head into the New Year.

“Extending government-backed loan schemes will give companies right across the UK the finance they need to support, protect and create jobs as we build back better from the pandemic.”

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