Sunak Questioned Over Decisions During the Pandemic

Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the Exchequer, appeared in front of MPs at the Liaison Committee on Tuesday. He was questioned by a cross-party group of select committee chairs about his plans for supporting small businesses, childcare and high-speed rail (HS2) during the coronavirus pandemic. 

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Sunak said he had given more than £10bn to support around 800,000 small businesses across England since March 2020. He claimed there were still “stark differences” between how rural and urban areas have been affected by COVID-19. Still, he noted that he had provided additional funds to “level up” disadvantaged regions. 

When asked about childcare, Sunak admitted that the sector “has been underfunded for a long time” and was ready to “make a significant investment” in the industry. He revealed that the government is considering extending free childcare, making it more flexible and supporting childminders. 

Turning to HS2, Sunak said that while it would be an important economic driver in the future, there still needed to be more debate about whether or not it should go ahead. He noted that he had asked Sir Paul Beresford to undertake an independent review of HS2 which will report back in March 2021. 

Sunak also confirmed that he was looking into providing financial support for people with narrowboats on canals that could not work during the pandemic. He noted that he had already given out grants for those who owned boats over 6 metres in length and was looking at providing similar support for those with smaller vessels. 

Sunak said that he was “absolutely focused” on supporting the economy throughout the pandemic while investing in infrastructure to help create jobs and growth in the future. He promised to continue engaging with select committees as his plans develop. 

The session concluded with a brief discussion of Brexit, although it is still being determined how this will affect the economic policies discussed earlier by Sunak. What measures he will take to ensure that UK businesses and citizens are supported through this period of great economic uncertainty remains to be seen.

What measures has Rishi Sunak proposed to help support small businesses, childcare and high-speed rail (HS2) during the coronavirus pandemic? 

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