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Covid-19: Support for Businesses

Part of Treasury – in the House of Commons on 24th March 2020.

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Photo of Rishi Sunak Rishi Sunak The Chancellor of the Exchequer

1 am very grateful to the hon. Member for his warm words; I appreciate them. We are looking at pace at what support can be provided. The fact is that the universe of 5 million that we are dealing with contains such a wide variety of different people that we are unable to target support. That is the challenge in designing something that gets to the people who we want to help, while at the same time being affordable and not having to benefit absolutely everybody. That is proving to be problematic, but we are hard at work on it.

In terms of delivery, it is almost certainly going to be the case that we would have to build another brand-new system to deliver any support. I am sure that hon. Members on both sides of the House would agree that, in terms of prioritising system design, the scheme that we have set up for 90% of the workforce who are employed should be delivered first and quickly, and that is what we have committed to do, ideally by the end of April. We are looking at how we can do these things in sequence or in parallel, but I take the hon. Member’s point: people are anxious. That is why we deferred the self-assessment tax return that is due shortly to provide some cash-flow benefit. We have also deferred VAT to a significant degree, which will help with cash-flow benefit, and many self-employed people will benefit from the business interruption loans, which are also interest-free.