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Coronavirus: Boris Johnson agrees to hold talks on universal basic income to support people

Boris Johnson speaking during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons.
Boris Johnson speaking during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons.

Boris Johnson has agreed to hold talks on introducing a universal basic income to help protect people’s cash flow in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

The prime minister, speaking in the Commons, said he would be willing to sit down and discuss the proposal with SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Universal basic income, or UBI, means that everyone gets a set monthly income, regardless of means.

Mr Blackford said the UK government needed to learn the lessons of the 2008 financial crisis when “banks were bailed out – but ordinary people were not”.

He said: “Thousands of people are already losing their jobs, it’s happening today. Millions will face the same threat. They need reassurance and support, and they need it today. They need an income guarantee.

“We must not repeat history. People are worried about their bills, they are worried about keeping a roof over their head.

“In the last financial crisis the banks were bailed out but ordinary people were not. Prime Minister you have it within your power to protect people’s incomes and provide them with peace of mind.”

Ian Blackford

Mr Johnson agreed to hold talks, adding: “I agree profoundly with what he said about not repeating history.

“It is very important that as we ask the public to do the right thing for themselves and everybody else that no-one – whatever their income – should be penalised for doing the right thing, and we will make sure that that is the case.”

It is in the interests of public health, of the health of all of us, that people don’t feel forced to go to work in order to avoid eviction when they know themselves they may be spreading this terrible disease.”

Mr Johnson also announced that the UK Government would be bringing forward measures to protect private renters from eviction, after pressure from Mr Corbyn.

The Labour leader said: “On Tuesday, the Chancellor unfortunately offered nothing to the 20 million people living in rented homes, including three million households with children.

“They’re worried, they’re worried sick that they can’t pay their rent if they get ill, lose pay or feel they need to self-isolate.

“It is in the interests of public health, of the health of all of us, that people don’t feel forced to go to work in order to avoid eviction when they know themselves they may be spreading this terrible disease.

“So will the prime minister now confirm that the Government’s emergency legislation will protect private renters from eviction?”

Mr Johnson replied: “I can indeed confirm that we will be bringing forward legislation to protect private renters from eviction, that is one thing we will do, but it is also important as we legislate that we do not simply pass on the problem, so we’ll also be taking steps to protect other actors in the economy.”

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