Sir Keir Starmer: We need 'Plan B' to save Britain's economy

23 September 2020, 20:04

By Kate Buck

Sir Keir Starmer has said the UK needs a "Plan B" for the economy in response to tighter restrictions brought in by the government to help slow the rapidly rising Covid-19 cases.

Speaking in a televised address to the nation, the Labour leader said the second spike of infections which are being seen across the country is not an "act of God", but instead a "failure of Government".

He added: "The British people have done everything asked of them. But I’m afraid the Government has not. We’re a great country. We shouldn’t have one of the highest death rates in the world, or one of the worst recessions. "

On the economy, Sir Keir said we need a "Plan B", as it makes "no sense to bring in new restrictions at the same time as phasing out support for jobs and businesses."

He continued: "There was nothing in the Prime Minister’s statement last night to protect people’s jobs, businesses or our town centres and high streets. No clarity about what happens when the furlough scheme ends.

Sir Keir Starmer has said we need a "Plan B" for the economy
Sir Keir Starmer has said we need a "Plan B" for the economy. Picture: Labour Party

"That’s a huge gap. It’s a huge mistake. And it could lead to a wave of job losses this winter. We need a national effort to protect jobs and prevent a second lockdown."

One of the biggest issues, Sir Keir said, is the failure for a working testing system to be in place.

"It’s a national scandal that we still don’t have a testing system that works. Or a plan to protect our care homes. It shouldn’t be like this," he said.

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"People shouldn’t have to travel hundreds of miles to get a test for their child for themselves or for their relatives. And we should be able to give our older people the dignity, security and respect they deserve.

"The Government needs to fix testing. Fast. Because that’s the only we can get control of the virus. And prevent further restrictions."

One of the biggest issues, Sir Keir said, is the failure for a working testing system to be in place
One of the biggest issues, Sir Keir said, is the failure for a working testing system to be in place. Picture: PA

Sir Keir's address came in response to the latest stringent measures brought in by the Government aimed at curbing the rapidly rising numbers of coronavirus cases in the UK.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has cancelled the Autumn Budget and is set to address the House of Commons tomorrow amid rumours he will announce a replacement to the furlough scheme - which is set to end in October.

Speaking yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a rallying cry for the nation to pull together and abide by his new coronavirus rules to halt the rapidly growing coronavirus cases.

He warned the public face "unquestionably difficult months to come", but added he is sure the "spirit of togetherness" will carry us through what is predicted to be an incredibly tough winter.

Speaking yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a raSpeaking yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a rallying cry for the nation to pull togetherllying cry for the nation to pull together
Speaking yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a raSpeaking yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued a rallying cry for the nation to pull togetherllying cry for the nation to pull together. Picture: PA

Sir Keir Starmer's national address in full:

Good evening. When I was elected Leader of the Labour Party I said I would always act in the national interest. That’s why, as the nation continues to fight against this dreadful virus, my priority will always be the same as yours to save lives and protect our NHS.

Sadly, despite all the sacrifices and heroism of the British people, it’s clear we are not through this yet. The picture presented by the Government’s medical advisers this week was stark and clear. Infections are rising. Hospital admissions are increasing. And we know from bitter experience where that could lead.

That’s why the Government had to introduce further restrictions last night. We support this. And I urge everyone to follow the new guidance and the rule of law.

While these restrictions are now necessary. They were not inevitable. The return of this virus, and the return of restrictions, are not an act of God.

They’re a failure of Government. The British people have done everything asked of them. But I’m afraid the Government has not. We’re a great country. We shouldn’t have one of the highest death rates in the world, or one of the worst recessions.

It’s a national scandal that we still don’t have a testing system that works. Or a plan to protect our care homes. It shouldn’t be like this. People shouldn’t have to travel hundreds of miles to get a test for their child for themselves or for their relatives. And we should be able to give our older people the dignity, security and respect they deserve.

The Government needs to fix testing. Fast. Because that’s the only we can get control of the virus. And prevent further restrictions.

And we also need a ‘Plan B’ for the economy too. Because it makes no sense to bring in new restrictions at the same time as phasing out support for jobs and businesses.

There was nothing in the Prime Minister’s statement last night to protect people’s jobs, businesses or our town centres and high streets. No clarity about what happens when the furlough scheme ends.

That’s a huge gap. It’s a huge mistake. And it could lead to a wave of job losses this winter. We need a national effort to protect jobs and prevent a second lockdown.

So I’ve offered to work with Prime Minister to do whatever we can to save lives and livelihoods. That offer remains open. My door is always open.

The weeks and months ahead will be difficult.

And I know there is real frustration and anger at the mistakes that the Government has made in the last few months. But, we will get through this. The darkness will lift.

A better future is possible for our country. A country built on the values that have held us together during this pandemic. Decency, fairness, opportunity, compassion and security.

A future where Britain is everything it can be. The best place to grow up in and the best place to grow old in.

That’s the future I want for my children and for my country.

That’s why I do this. Together, we can build it.