The SNP MP claimed Chancellor Rishi Sunak should announce a whopping £98billion package to the Commons today in a bid to support businesses across the country. But as BBC host Naga Munchetty asked her how and when the extra borrowing would be paid back, Ms Thewliss struggled to come back with a concrete answer. The SNP MP said: “The crisis we face is probably the biggest crisis we have faced since World War 2. The spending has to meet the challenges we face.
“The Government can borrow and should be borrowing to meet these demands, as governments are doing around the world. We look to Germany and France and New Zealand, and we think a stimulus package of £98billion, akin to what they are putting into their economies to make sure they get through this crisis.”
Asked how the money would be paid for, she added: “Much in the same way as war debt was paid for. This is something we would pay back over time.”
“Through taxes?” the BBC host asked.
Ms Thewliss replied: “I don’t think it would be right to raise taxes just now because so many people are out in a difficult time.
“Government can put these debts into the future and we can pay this over time. It will take time to pay down, but the Government is able to do that.
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“A responsible government needs to look at these issues today. If the Government doesn’t look after people today, it will cause greater economic scarring in the future.”
But Naga stressed: “And by addressing this today, at some point I the future it will have to be paid for. What would be your time frame?
“It’s all very well laying out the plans for now, but we, the public, have to know how this is going to affect us in the future. How it is going to affect us in five years, ten years. Who is going to be paying for this?”
The SNP MP said: “Well, we will pay for this in the future. This is the way that government debt works. We need to work, look at the here and now.”
Rishi Sunak is pledging to make jobs his “number one priority” as he sets out his first Spending Review against the backdrop of an economy ravaged by the effects of COVID-19.
In his Commons statement on Wednesday, the Chancellor will announce the launch of a three-year Restart programme, worth £2.9 billion, which will help more than a million unemployed people get back into work in the wake of the pandemic.
But while business leaders have welcomed the moves to support jobs, Mr Sunak is braced for a backlash from trade unions over an expected freeze on public sector pay as he begins to repair public finances.
He also faces criticism – including from some senior Conservatives – over widely signalled plans to cut foreign aid, suspending the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7 percent of national income on overseas development.
Ahead of his statement, the Chancellor has insisted he is not planning a return to “austerity” and would continue to support the economy as it sought to recover from the fall-out from the pandemic.
As well as the Restart programme, with tailored help for those out of work for more than 12 months, there will be £1.4 billion promised to increase the capacity of Jobcentre Plus and a £375 million skills package.
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Unusually, because of the economic uncertainty caused by the virus, most Government departments will only receive a one-year spending allocation rather than the usual multi-year settlement.
An exception has been the Ministry of Defence which has already been given a four-year deal – worth more than £7 billion in real terms according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies – to modernise Britain’s armed forces.
Other commitments are expected to include £3 billion more to support the NHS, including £1 billion to address the treatment backlogs built up while it was dealing with the Covid-19 crisis.
There will also be measures to support Boris Johnson’s “levelling-up” agenda with the publication of the much-delayed National Infrastructure Strategy and investment across the UK’s regions and nations, including £1.6 billion for local roads.
At the same time however, the Chancellor will take the first steps towards rebuilding the public finances after government borrowing soared and economic activity ground to a halt due to the pandemic.