Eddie Mair scrutinises the Treasury's Chief Secretary over the Summer Statement

8 July 2020, 18:42 | Updated: 8 July 2020, 19:06

By Fiona Jones

Eddie Mair forensically challenged the Chief Secretary of the Treasury Steve Barclay over the Chancellor's mini budget.

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a list of measures to get businesses and workers back on track after the coronavirus lockdown.

Eddie Mair confronted Steve Barclay firstly over the "Eat out help out" scheme, citing prominent reports that the Treasury were planning to launch a £500 voucher scheme, and asked why this was not the route taken.

Eddie pushed, "Why did you discard it for a scheme which involves participating businesses Mondays to Wednesdays 50% off up to a maximum discount of £10 per head? Companies have to register through a website? Why not just give everybody £500? Why did you reject that?"

After much avoidance, Mr Barclay replied "Eat out to help out" is a targeted scheme which not only helps with demand in restaurants but also helps a lot of young people who work in the hospitality industry.

Eddie moved on to ask about what the Treasury "hasn't done": "It would be a targeted measure to give a pay rise to the people who deserve it most and have the least?"

Mr Barclay responded that there has been inflation and "in terms of these sectors the measure we thought was most important was to retain the link with their jobs and to support businesses."

Eddie Mair scrutinised Steve Barclay over the Chancellor's Summer Statement
Eddie Mair scrutinised Steve Barclay over the Chancellor's Summer Statement. Picture: LBC

Despite the Chancellor's further announcements today, many people have "fallen through the cracks" of the financial support schemes implemented during the pandemic, such as business owners who do not pay themselves dividends - which is something Eddie has been talking about for months.

He asked Mr Barclay five times for a Treasury representative to take calls for an hour from struggling LBC listeners and he declined - this is after weeks of LBC going through the official channels.

Eddie then asked on behalf of Conservatives whether this Summer Statement was "Conservative enough".

Mr Barclay responded: "We're on the side of business, we're on the side of the strivers, people that are struggling. We recognise that a lot of these businesses were viable businesses before the pandemic, the problems they face are not economic...what we need to do is help them through that transitional phase."

When asked how this mini-budget will be paid for Mr Barclay told LBC capital has been raised through the gilt market, "What the OBR [Office for Budget Responsibility] have said is the cost of not taking these measures would be far higher because of the economic scarring.

"The decisions we took over the preceding decade, often criticised by the opposition, got the deficit down from 10% under 2%...and has therefore enabled us at a time of crisis to borrow in the way that we have."

Mr Barclay continued that the Chancellor will set out in the Autumn Budget "our longer term fiscal position."

In a final bid for the Treasury to take calls from LBC listeners, Steve Barclay accepted.