The Prime Minister has been urged to bring in a universal basic income for all citizens on a temporary basis to support them through the coronavirus crisis.
Speaking at PMQs on Wednesday, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford urged Boris Johnson to introduce the measure, saying “an unprecedented emergency… requires an unprecedented response”.
It comes after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced on Tuesday a mammoth £330bn financial stimulus package of loans to support businesses against the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Blackford welcomed that investment and praised all parties in the Commons, and all the governments of the UK, for working together constructively to deal with the crisis.
But he added: “Today, the UK Government needs to announce a financial package for people.
“Members from six parties across this House have now expressed support for a temporary universal basic income to help everyone, especially freelancers, renters and the self-employed.”
Blackford said thousands of people working in vulnerable sectors like retail, leisure and hospitality are “already losing their jobs”.
“It’s happening today,” he said.
“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.”
Johnson agreed to hold talks with supporters of the universal income scheme, 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.”
Earlier, the PM told Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that emergency legislation expected to be passed in the coming days will protect renters from eviction.
Johnson also said the UK is getting “much closer” to having a generally available test to determine whether someone has had coronavirus, with testing across Britain to be ramped up from around 5000 to 10,000 tests a day.