Rishi Sunak has confirmed that he opposed the imposition of a “circuit breaker” lockdown in September due to the impact on people’s jobs and livelihoods, but that the “ultimate” decision was Boris Johnson’s. ITV News has the story.
In a wide-ranging interview with ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston, Mr Sunak said in Cabinet he made the case against a circuit-breaking lockdown due to the “impact” it would have on “people’s jobs and livelihoods”, and that he believed it would be “bad for the economy” and “long-term health as well”.
Despite Sage recommending a lockdown in a bid to stop Covid cases increasing, Mr Sunak said it was his “job” to “provide the Prime Minister with the best advice” in his “area of expertise”.
“In the same way that you’d expect the Education Secretary to feed in about this –the impact on children’s education and learning – you’d expect me in my job to talk about the impact on people’s jobs and livelihoods and ultimately things that are bad for the economy are bad for our long term health as well and our ability to fund things like the NHS.
“And those things have to go into the decision.
“These are difficult decisions to make, and it’s why we weigh up all those factors.”
Mr Sunak insisted that “at the time it wasn’t a clear-cut case” and that one of the deputy chief medical officers said it would “not be appropriate… for a national intervention”.
He continued that there was a “varied epidemiological picture” across the country so a “national intervention… wasn’t considered one that wouldn’t necessarily make sense”.
“And actually, you know, Wales went down that route and it didn’t in the end stop what needed to happen.”
The 40-year-old continued that while he and other ministers provided “input” from their respective rolls, “ultimately” the decision was made by Boris Johnson who “has to weigh these things up”.
The impact of the specific restrictions on the economy were not forecast or predicted by the Treasury before they came into force.
Clare Lombardelli, the Chief Economic Adviser to the Treasury, said in November:
As the Chancellor set out in Parliament last week, we haven’t done a specific prediction or forecast of the restrictions… what we do is ongoing policy that feeds into decisions ministers take, which they consider alongside the health impacts, the social impacts, and they also consider the economic impact.
As Kate Andrews commented: “That the institution did not produce any forecasts or predictions also raises serious questions about the extent to which the economic implications of such radical measures were considered before the Government brought them in.”
ITV News’ report is worth reading in full.