The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has told MPs that “mums everywhere” are owed a debt of thanks for “juggling childcare and work” during lockdown.
Sunak was responding to a question in the Commons specifically about mothers who are working while dealing with childcare and home schooling responsibilities, although there was no mention of fathers in his answer.
Speaking in the Commons, Conservative MP Joy Morrissey (Beaconsfield) said: “Many female business owners have found themselves working full-time jobs at home while bearing full-time responsibility for childcare and home schooling all at the same time.
“May I thank my right honourable friend for all the steps he is taking to alleviate the difficulties experienced by mothers who just want to work and contribute to the economy with their children safely back in school.”
Mr Sunak replied: “My honourable friend is absolutely right and we owe mums everywhere an enormous debt of thanks for doing the enormously difficult job of juggling childcare and work at this tricky time.
“I know she will join me in being happy that early years settings have been open for a while.
“But she’s absolutely right, the only way to sustainably solve this challenge is to safely reopen our schools as quickly as we can.”
Responding to the remark at Treasury questions, Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner wrote on Twitter: “Erm @RishiSunak you know mums work too and don’t just look after the kids and make meals..?
“That’s why Labour is demanding flexible furlough for working parents balancing work with childcare and home schooling.
“Happy to brief you on the inequality and sexism women face at work.”
Rishi Sunak took to Twitter to explain why he answered the way he did. The question, he was asked, was about mums.
Journalist John Harris Tweeted about Sunak’s comments, writing: “In which Rishi “he was the future once” sunak manages to offend both women & men.”
Rishi Sunak has insisted further economic support is coming in response to Covid-19, although he remained tight-lipped on the detail when challenged by MPs.
The Chancellor is facing a series of demands, including from the Conservative benches, to extend support to businesses and individuals – including the £20 weekly boost to Universal Credit.
Mr Sunak estimates it will cost between £20 billion and £30 billion to help firms with VAT and extend the business rate relief, stamp duty holiday, self-employment scheme and benefits boost.
He added it is “reasonable” to consider the suggestions “in the round at the Budget”, which is scheduled for March 3.
Speaking in the Commons, Conservative Jason McCartney (Colne Valley) asked: “With the lockdown or some form of restrictions set to continue well into the spring, will the Chancellor please give some certainty to those businesses and individuals struggling financially by announcing an early extension to his various support packages, including help with VAT, business rates, stamp duty, the self-employment scheme and of course the Universal Credit uplift?”
Mr Sunak replied: “(Mr McCartney) I hope will appreciate the various things he just mentioned total about, I think, £20 billion or £30 billion, so he will understand if it’s reasonable that we consider all of these things in the round at Budget, where we will set out the next stage of our economic response to coronavirus.”
Labour MP Lucy Powell (Manchester Central) earlier said: “While the Chancellor might pat himself on the back, reports out this week show that nearly 250,000 businesses are likely to go bust this year, taking many jobs with them. Does he recognise that he can’t pull the plug all in one go in April when many businesses won’t have even reopened at that point?”
Mr Sunak replied: “No-one, least of all me, is patting themselves on the back while hundreds of thousands of people are losing their jobs and many businesses are seeing extreme dislocation as a result of what is happening in our economy.
“I have put in place a series of measures but I have always said that we cannot protect or save every job or every business.
“The honourable lady makes a fair point, which is why we have said that we will review all our economic measures in place to support people through coronavirus at the upcoming Budget in the first week of March.”