Politics / Carmichael ‘disappointed’ by response after asking chancellor to consider universal basic income

MP says it is ‘apparent there are just too many people falling through the gaps’

Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael.

NORTHERN Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has called on the UK government to consider implementing a universal basic income, saying “too many people are falling through the gaps” during the coronavirus crisis.

A universal basic income (UBI) scheme would see everyone receive money from the government, whether they work or not, which Carmichael believes could help anyone who is not eligible for existing coronavirus government support.

He highlighted workers such as the self-employed who are in need of immediate help.

Speaking during a Westminster debate remotely from Orkney, the Liberal Democrat MP said: “As the chancellor says these schemes were designed at pace, but I have to tell him that here in the Northern Isles our economy is predominantly based on small businesses.

“Every day it becomes more apparent that there are just too many people falling through the gaps, especially the self-employed, people working from home, people relying on directors’ dividends.


“If it is just too difficult to design a scheme to help all these people, will the Treasury look seriously at the idea of a universal basic income? Yes, it might risk handing cash to people who don’t actually need it, but that might be clawed back through the tax system and it will give help to people who are desperate for it now.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, however, said he does not believe in universal basic income.

Instead, he said that “our schemes benefit many many millions of people, particularly the self-employed scheme which will benefit over 3.5 million people who need it”.

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“And indeed the new bounce back loans will also be available to those in self-employment for those with business accounts as well,” Sunak added.

Carmichael said he was disappointed with the chancellor’s response.

“A UBI scheme could be constructed for the current crisis and it would be a quick and easy way to get cash to people who may otherwise be left with nothing,” he said.

“It could be time limited for the duration of this crisis although there may be opportunities to learn lessons for application in the medium to long term.

“I also noted concerns about those reliant on dividend income. There is no point in furloughing employees if employers are not supported in keeping their businesses going. Furloughed employees cannot resume their employment after the crisis if their employer goes out of business.”

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