Government minister fails to say if he could live on new furlough wage while backing MPs pay rise

Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, Oliver Dowden in Downing Street in London.

Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, Oliver Dowden in Downing Street in London. - Credit: PA

A government minister has been grilled over the chancellor's new furlough scheme which will see workers have to survive on £5.84 an hour.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden refused to say if he could live off the government's new minimum wage for furloughed workers.

During an interview on Sky News, Dowden discussed the impact new coronavirus restrictions are having on the UK economy. 

When the conversation turned to the new furlough scheme, which will see the government support two-thirds of workers' salary, presenter Kay Burley asked: "A young person is earning £8.72 an hour for the national living wage, that means £5.84 an hour. Could you live on that?"

Dowden replied: "I know these are very challenging times but in order to control the virus we are having a big impact on the economy.

"In order to control this virus we're having a big impact on the economy and the chancellor has taken unprecedented measures to try and ameliorate the worst impacts of it."

Burley added: "The answer to my question?"

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The culture secretary replied: "Of course, it is very, very difficult for people in that situation, that is why we want to move as quickly as we can while controlling this virus to more of the normality of reopening the economy so people are able to have their jobs back properly."

Burley continued: "I wanted to clarify whether you thought £5.84 is now a living wage. 

"Could you survive on £5.84 an hour? 

"Because MPs are looking to get a £3,000 pay increase aren’t they?"

Dowden shot back: "That is for IPSA, which is the independent body, we don’t want to go back to the position where MPs are determining their own salaries, that was a whole area of difficulty before."

On Friday, IPSA suggested a £3,500 pay rise for MPs who already earn £81,932.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has pledged to support two-thirds of workers' wages at businesses forced to close due to coronavirus restrictions and increased grants for affected businesses to £3,000 a month.

But few are pleased with the new policy.

Jonquil tweeted: "'Very challenging' And that's it? It's not only challenging it's the difference between some families (children included of course) eating and not eating. That's the sort of challenging your government is inflicting on some people, @OliverDowden."

Marion wrote: "It's not challenging it's impossible & the public are starting to feel like they don't owe this government co-operation. Look to those northern towns where growth & spread continues despite lockdowns/restrictions. You're in a very dangerous place."

Tom Carlisle tweeted: "Easy for Dowden to say when MPs have had a 30% pay increase over the last eight years."

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