RISHI Sunak has admitted he told Boris Johnson he opposed a circuit-breaker lockdown last September – but stressed the ultimate decision was the PM’s.
The Chancellor revealed today he didn’t back a short sharp lockdown as recommended by some scientists and experts as the cases began to climb in the early autumn.
Ministers eventually did decide to go for a lockdown – but not until the beginning of November, lasting for four weeks.
Mr Sunak told ITV News this evening he was worried about the “impact” any such action would have on “people’s jobs and livelihoods”.
He said there were “very different caseloads in different parts of the country” and that a “national intervention” wouldn’t have made sense at the time.
He also raised the case that Wales went into a circuit break at the time – but it still didn’t stop their cases rising rapidly after the discovery of the new Kent variants.
The Chancellor said: “My job is to provide the PM with the best advice….
“You’d expect me to talk about the impact on people’s jobs. Things are bad for the economy harm our long term health as well and our ability to fund the NHS.
“These are difficult decisions to make, and it’s why we weigh up all those factors…
“At the time it wasn’t a clear cut case.”
And he noted that medics had also warned it may not be an “appropriate” thing to do either.
He said that ultimately the PM had the final call, and played down that he had a “decisive” role in opposing the shutdown.
Mr Sunak said despite economic doom and gloom he was “optimistic” that the UK’s recovery was on track as England begins to unlock.
Tomorrow his super-deduction incentive will come in – which will help companies reduce their tax bills by up to 130 per cent when they invest in new machinery.
Mr Sunak was also asked in the interview about former-PM David Cameron sending him a number of text messages lobbying for emergency funding for Greensill capital, a finance company he was advising.
In a gentle slap down to the former PM, he said: “I think it’s important that, whoever people are, whether they’re prime ministers or anyone else, that they follow the rules and the guidelines that we have in place for lobbying.
“And we have the rules in place for good reason.
“And I think whoever you are it’s important processes are appropriately followed.”
He said the Treasury “rejected the suggestion” of extra assistance for the firm and “so I didn’t want to take that forward”.
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