Northern Ireland news

Confusion over furlough 'reflects contempt' of British government towards devolved administrations

The furlough scheme has been extended until early December. Picture from iStock, Press Association

Confusion over the coronavirus furlough provisions "reflects the complete contempt" with which the British Government treats the devolved administrations, shadow Secretary of State Louise Haigh has claimed.

During Northern Ireland questions in the Commons today, Ms Haigh asked Secretary of State Brandon Lewis "will Northern Ireland receive the full backing of the 80% furlough scheme, should they extend or reintroduce restrictions?".

She added: "Northern Ireland has had higher Covid rates than any other part of the UK in this second wave, yet their calls for furlough to be extended to cover lockdown have been ignored for almost three weeks until the Government have finally caught up with the rest of the country.

"Now despite repeated questioning it is still totally unclear whether furlough will be extended for Northern Ireland and the other devolved administrations.

"So can the Secretary of State tell us: will Northern Ireland receive the full backing of the 80% furlough scheme, should they extend or reintroduce restrictions?"

The furlough scheme was due to end on October 31 but the government announced at the last minute that it would be extended by one month.

Mr Lewis said: "Obviously the furlough scheme that's been in place, the 80% runs and has run until the end of October. The Government has announced that extension so it continues for those businesses that need it through to December 2.

"The Treasury has said, and been very clear about this, both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor, we will keep these things under review because we want to make sure that we get the support there for people that need it. I think our track record has shown that we have done that.

"We continue to do that and we'll continue to make sure that support is there for people across Northern Ireland and the businesses that need it."

Ms Haigh replied: "It's just not good enough", adding: "The Prime Minister confirmed on Monday that furlough would be in place for the devolved administrations should they need it.

"This confusion reflects the complete contempt this Government treats the devolved administrations with."

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