Government shouldn’t bail out Branson until he has used his reserves, says shadow minister

PUBLISHED: 16:01 17 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:05 17 March 2020

Sir Richard Branson. Photograph: Robert Perry/PA.

Sir Richard Branson. Photograph: Robert Perry/PA.

PA Archive/PA Images

The government should not offer billionaire Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson financial support until he has used his reserves, a shadow minister has claimed.

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Labour’s shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald urged Sir Richard to “look to his own considerable reserves” and withdraw his proposal that Virgin airlines staff take eight weeks’ unpaid leave to mitigate the economic consequences of the coronavirus.

He added that he trusts the government have told Sir Richard to “use his own considerable resources” before offering his company a financial package.

Virgin Atlantic staff have reportedly been asked to take eight weeks of unpaid leave over the next three months to help the airline cope during the coronavirus pandemic.

The airline is one of many to have brought in drastic measures to cope with a fall in passenger demand, due to global travel restrictions and the reluctance to travel due to the disease.

Labour Liverpool Wavertree MP Paula Barker said: “Would my honourable friend agree with me that those with the broadest shoulders should bear the biggest burden in seeing our country through this crisis, and if so, does he think it’s right that the billionaire boss Richard Branson of Virgin is asking his workers to take eight weeks’ unpaid leave?”

McDonald replied: “In respect of airline staff, I’m going to ask the Secretary of State to prevail upon the very Richard Branson to look to his own considerable reserves, built on the wealth created by his Virgin airline workforce, and withdraw his proposal that they suffer eight weeks of unpaid leave.

“I know that he’s asking the government for a bailout but I trust the government might accept him to use his own considerable resources before that happens, and perhaps when he’s down to his last billion might be an appropriate time.

“He might be able to live without two months of income but his workers can’t.”

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