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Coronavirus help package for the self-employed to be revealed

Sky News logo Sky News 25/03/2020 Jon Craig, chief political correspondent

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(Video by Evening Standard)

A coronavirus bail-out for the self-employed is being unveiled by the chancellor after pressure from MPs, but handouts could go to only one in three of the five million who work for themselves.

Rishi Sunak will announce an emergency package at Boris Johnson's daily Downing Street news conference, promising help for groups such as builders, taxi drivers, hairdressers and childminders.

But while he will promise to match the 80% of earnings he promised staff employees last Friday, the monthly cap is likely to be lower than the £2,500 in that coronavirus scheme because many self-employed pay less tax.

a man wearing a suit and tie looking at the camera: Rishi Sunak's measures are unlikely to reach all the self-employed © Getty Rishi Sunak's measures are unlikely to reach all the self-employed

And it is likely only about 1.7 million, a third of the UK's self-employed, will qualify, with those who have separate earnings as company employees and those on Universal Credit - already promised help - excluded.

MPs have been warned that the aid package for the self-employed is highly complicated. And Treasury officials worked through the night in a race against time to complete preparations for its Downing Street launch.

In the Commons on Tuesday, Mr Sunak - poised to unveil his second massive state bailout for workers in less than a week - told MPs: "We will not be able to protect every single job or save every single business."

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And at Prime Minister's Questions, under pressure from MPs of all parties, Mr Johnson admitted: "I cannot, in all candour, promise that we will be able to get through this crisis without any kind of hardship at all."

Later, at his latest Downing Street news conference, the prime minister revealed: "You'll be hearing more from Rishi Sunak, the chancellor tomorrow, about what we're doing to help the self-employed."

He added: "I think people do understand the complexity of their working arrangements has made it harder to come up with the right tailored programme and that is coming forward tomorrow."

Pedestrians in masks walk along Westminster Bridge with Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) in the backgroud, in a quiet central London on March 25, 2020, after Britain's government ordered a lockdown to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. - Britain was under lockdown, its population joining around 1.7 billion people around the globe ordered to stay indoors to curb the "accelerating" spread of the coronavirus. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images) Pedestrians in masks walk along Westminster Bridge with Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben) in the backgroud, in a quiet central London on March 25, 2020, after Britain's government ordered a lockdown to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. - Britain was under lockdown, its population joining around 1.7 billion people around the globe ordered to stay indoors to curb the "accelerating" spread of the coronavirus. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

At PMQs, Mr Johnson promised MPs: "We will do whatever we can to support the self-employed, just as we are putting our arms around every single employed person in this country."

Pressed by the SNP leader Ian Blackford, Mr Johnson promised "parity of support" for the self-employed, matching the handouts announced by the Chancellor last week for those in salaried employment.

"There are particular difficulties with those who are not on PAYE schemes," Mr Johnson said. "We are bringing forward a package to ensure that everybody gets the support that they need."

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Attacking the delay, Jeremy Corbyn challenged the PM: "The self-employed are having to choose whether they go to work or stay at home and face losing their entire livelihood, relying instead on an overstretched welfare system, which could pay as little as £94 per week.

"One self-employed person said that they need to pay for baby food, rent, council tax and insurance for the car they use for work, being 'faced with a decision to feed your family and pay your bills, or stay at home and not get paid'.

"Why has it taken the prime minister so long to guarantee income for all self-employed workers? There are millions of them-our economy has changed."

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks to the media on the coronavirus pandemic outside the Finsbury Park Jobcentre, north London. (Photo by Hollie Adams/PA Images via Getty Images) © PA Wire/PA Images Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks to the media on the coronavirus pandemic outside the Finsbury Park Jobcentre, north London. (Photo by Hollie Adams/PA Images via Getty Images)

Later, in his final Commons speech as Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell told MPs: "If people claim fraudulently while still working, they will rightly be prosecuted.

"But right now millions of cabbies, childminders, plumbers, electricians, painters and decorators and actors have all lost work or closed down their businesses.

"As have builders, designated as the self-employed under the construction industry scheme and they have no income. They need a solution, now."

A paramedic from the Palestinian Ministry of Health checks the body temperature of a Palestinian laborer after exiting an Israeli army checkpoint, on his way home at the end of a day work in Israel, part of a strict precautionary measures to contain coronavirus outbreak, in the bordering West Bank village of Nilin, west of Ramallah, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser) © ASSOCIATED PRESS A paramedic from the Palestinian Ministry of Health checks the body temperature of a Palestinian laborer after exiting an Israeli army checkpoint, on his way home at the end of a day work in Israel, part of a strict precautionary measures to contain coronavirus outbreak, in the bordering West Bank village of Nilin, west of Ramallah, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

And in the final minutes before the Commons adjourned for Easter, Labour and SNP MPs protested angrily over the Chancellor preparing to unveil his package when Parliament is no longer sitting.

But the Commons Leader, Jacob Rees-Mogg, told MPs: "I have been informed that it is a complicated package that is not in fact ready for announcement today. Had it been ready today, it would have been brought forward today.

"The Government are keen to get on with this announcement, which will provide support and comfort to a large number of the self-employed.

Doug Hassebroek packs groceries separated from the cashier by a plastic sheet installed during the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., March 25, 2020. Picture taken March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs © Thomson Reuters Doug Hassebroek packs groceries separated from the cashier by a plastic sheet installed during the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., March 25, 2020. Picture taken March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Caitlin Ochs

"There is no discourtesy to the House. It is being worked on as quickly as possible, but it is not yet ready. The plans have not been completed.

"What has been announced, and what was announced by the Prime Minister at his press conference, is that the plans will be announced tomorrow and they will be completed in time for tomorrow's press conference."

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Stay at home to stop coronavirus spreading - here is what you can and can't do. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland, anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.

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