All the praise hand emoji have shot up in favour of BBC Breakfast host Naga Munchetty this morning as she expertly schooled Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi on people who were self-employed.
The politician appeared on the BBC show on Friday morning, speaking with Munchetty about the latest lockdown, when talk turned to those who are self-employed and currently unable to pay their own wages.
She quizzed Mr Zahawi on Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s decision to extend furlough to March 31, saying that while the scheme had been extended through to next year, there were 2.9million people who were ‘excluded’ due to being self-employed.
Munchetty said o Friday: ‘Under this scheme, despite the extension … there will be tens of thousands of people who have had no income from March this year and won’t have any income until March next year. They’re called the excluded, what are you going to do about them?’
She went on: ‘There is a group of people out there who have been excluded and have been consistently ignored by this government.’
Responding to the journalist, the minister said the chancellor did the right thing to increase the amount self-employed after able to claim, from 40% to 80% of their wage.
However, on the excluded people, those who have their own businesses, he suggested: ‘These are people who would have taken dividends out of their business, they have clearly had a really difficult time and I comply understand that. But we have put £9billion into the welfare system to try and help those people who have found it very difficult to get any other income over and above the dividends.’
Going on to suggest they can pay themselves from wages, Munchetty interjected to say if lockdown has closed their business, there are no profits from which to pay themselves wages.
She said: ‘They’re not working, they’re not earning, so what are they going to pay themselves wages from? Money only lasts for so long, you know as well as I do that if you have a small business, you are self-employed, you budget from month to month to cover your mortgage, to cover your rent, to feed your family.
‘Everyday people don’t have a years’ worth of money ready to top up their income in case they lose it.’
Stumbling over his words, the MP added: ‘If they’re only takin dividends, you’re right to say…if they were on a wage, they can claim 80% of that on the furlough that now goes all the way to next March. That is my point. Some directors were taking both wages and dividends and, yes, of course, they would have seen a substantial reduction in their income and I understand that. We want to make sure we help as many people as possible.’
Citing the freelancers and contractors who will remain excluded from the scheme Munchetty pushed Mr Zahawi on how the government was going to help them.
As he brought up the furlough scheme again, Munchetty said: ‘No, no, no you are talking about those…the uplift is for those who have already qualified for that scheme. I’m talking about the 2.9million people who have had no support because they’ve dropped through the cracks of the criteria you’ve imposed. What are you going to do about helping them?’
The MP again doubled down on the investment in the welfare system to help those who aren’t able to make money.
Not satisfied with the answer, Munchetty pressed: ‘You’ve just said there are 650,000 who will get extra support, that leaves 2million people who will have had nothing in terms of support until March. You do know they’re not getting dividends because they’re not making money?’
As she said the welfare boost was ‘nothing’, the business minister replied: ‘How can you say it’s nothing? It’s £9bn more into the welcome system, £1000 additional per family that needs that additional help through the welfare system…On top of the £30bn that’s going into making sure we create opportunities and new jobs for people to take advantage of.’
Viewers were in awe of Munchetty taking the MP to task over the excluded people, as they reacted on social media.
Of course, she still had her detractors, with one suggesting co-host Charlie Strayt instead interview the ministers, as one wrote: ‘#bbcbreakfast naga incredibly rude it’s unpleasant yet again. Let Charlie interview if you can’t do it professionally and impartially as you are paid to do !’
BBC Breakfast airs weekdays at 6am on BBC One.
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