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SIR KEIR STARMER accused ministers today of making hollow promises to save jobs at risk from the coronavirus crisis amid warnings that unemployment could soar to unprecedented levels.
During Prime Minister’s questions, the Labour leader said the government’s decision to not provide specific support to the most at-risk sectors “could end up costing thousands of jobs.”
The Office for Budget Responsibility warned on Tuesday that, in a worst-case scenario, unemployment could nearly treble, from 1.3 million last year to 3.5m next year, as the coronavirus furlough scheme winds down in the coming months.
Mr Starmer criticised Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s summer economic statement for leaving out the sector-specific policies that he said were needed to save the jobs that were in the greatest jeopardy.
The government has repeatedly said that its new economic policies would support “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
But Mr Starmer said: “If the government’s priority really is to protect jobs, why did the Chancellor not bring forward sector-specific deals that could have done precisely that?”
He argued that aviation, one of the most hardest-hit sectors, has suffered thousands of redundancies so far, with British Airways (BA) announcing 12,000, Virgin 3,000 and EasyJet 1,900.
BA has also sacked and then rehired 30,000 staff on worse terms and conditions, Mr Starmer noted, saying that the “totally unacceptable” move was a “warning shot to many other working people.”
Mr Johnson replied by reiterating the Chancellor’s measures to tackle the jobs crisis and claiming that the government was doing “a huge amount” to support the aviation sector.
He added: “We cannot, I’m afraid, simply with a magic wand ensure that every single job that was being done before the crisis is retained after the crisis.”
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