Opposition Leaders Call for Coordinated Approach to Tackle Coronavirus

Opposition leaders have called, in a joint letter to the Prime Minister, for a coordinated approach to the coronavirus crisis to ensure as many lives are saved as possible.

Six Westminster Leaders have set out key priorities for the UK government ahead of the Prime Minister’s televised address this evening (Sunday), making clear that there must be serious, meaningful and substantive cooperation and consultation with all devolved nations and administrations.

In the letter signed by Ian Blackford MP, Ed Davey MP, Liz Saville Roberts MP, Colum Eastwod MP, Stephen Farry MP and Caroline Lucas MP, the opposition leaders also collectively ask the Prime Minister to urgently outline the UK Government’s plans for the Job Retention Scheme, following UK Government briefings in recent days which indicate a desire within the government to ‘wind down’ the scheme as soon as possible.

Ian Blackford MP said:

“The UK government must consult and cooperate with the devolved nations if we are to have a truly effective approach to tackling coronavirus.

“I am grateful to the other opposition leaders for working with us and collectively putting our concerns to the Prime Minister.

“We each share concerns regarding the UK government’s Job Retention Scheme following newspaper reports that it is to “wind down”.

“This is incredibly worrying, people will be worried about their financial security.

“We must ensure that no one is left behind as we deal with this health crisis.”

What was said in the letter to the Prime Minister:

Dear Prime Minister,

We write, collectively as opposition leaders in Westminster, having come to a consensus on some key demands and priorities which we believe should inform and direct your government’s approach ahead of your televised address this Sunday evening, 10th May.

Our first point of common concern relates to the need for the UK Government to include, inform and co-ordinate your Covid-19 approach with the devolved nations and governments. The need to consult on and co-ordinate between the UK Government’s and the devolved governments’ responses, in an effort to save as many lives as possible amidst this pandemic, remains of vital importance. This can be done whilst simultaneously respecting the right and responsibility of devolved governments to implement their own specific measures based on their scientific advice.

This cohesion is fundamental as governments across the UK develop individual plans and timelines as to how, and when, lockdown measures might be eased. There can be no common or collective UK response or public messaging if common measures or public messaging have not first been agreed between all the devolved governments and administrations. We ask that you reflect on this before your televised address.

Secondly, we would collectively urge you to urgently outline, in detail, the UK Government’s plans for the Job Retention Scheme. We note with concern UK government briefings in recent days which have indicated a desire within your government to ‘wind down’ the scheme as soon as possible. In order to avoid a devastating cliff-edge for businesses and employees, we believe it is essential that the UK Government does not take premature steps to remove these necessary economic supports.

HMRC figures show that over 800,000 companies, accounting for over 6 million workers, are applying to use the scheme. Rather than rolling back and winding down the Job Retention Scheme, we believe the Chancellor must instead look to strengthen the measures, ensure greater flexibility within the scheme and address the gaps in support that still remain. Prime Minister, there is now an urgent need for clarification on how this scheme will develop and evolve in the coming weeks and months.

And finally, we wish to collectively put on record our belief that major government announcements should be made first in the House of Commons – something you have failed to do in this instance. The Speaker of the House of Commons has already signalled his agreement that following this standard process and convention is more important than ever during this time of crisis. We hope, and expect, this is the last occasion in which you decide to ignore this recognised process.

We look forward to hearing your response in due course.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Blackford MP, SNP

Ed Davey MP, Liberal Democrats

Liz Saville Roberts MP, Plaid Cymru

Colum Eastwood MP, SDLP

Stephen Farry MP, Alliance Party

Caroline Lucas MP, Greens