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Coronavirus Kent: Tunbridge Wells MP asks government to pay business' wages to avoid unemployment

A Kent politician has urged the government to step in and pay companies’ wage bills to help avert mass layoffs.

Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark, the former business minister, said the government needed to act quickly to stop businesses from folding.

Greg Clark
Greg Clark

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Clark said jobs would be unnecessarily lost and the £330bn loan scheme offered no reason to keep staff employed.

He said: "With revenue collapsing and no knowledge of when normal trading can resume they see no choice but to lay off workers now. The loan scheme that Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced is not enough to prevent that.”

His comments come as the government signalled fresh support for struggling businesses would be outlined later today.

"These businesses have no idea when they will be able to pay back the debt they will incur. It provides no reason to keep staff employed: in fact - the reverse - because the smaller the wage bill, the less would have to be borrowed."

"The Chancellor promised employment support but as each day goes by, businesses are making decisions that will be irreversible. If the government does not act immediately, large numbers of people will be unemployed, registering them will put huge pressure on the welfare system, vital skills will be lost and good businesses will cease trading - who themselves will be the customers and suppliers of other businesses.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak
Chancellor Rishi Sunak

Mr Clark said there was a solution which was straightforward and could be done immediately.

"Instead of firms paying PAYE to the government, that flow should now be reversed, with the nation paying the wages of people for the next few weeks if, and only if, they continue to employ their staff.”

"At a stroke this would save people's jobs, save businesses and put an immediate end to the risk of contagion and help save the economy. The Chancellor said he would do whatever it takes and do so urgently. He now needs to make good on that, without delay - now."

The PM has urged struggling businesses to "stick by their employees, because we're all going to need them".

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