And Mr Sunak also gave an indication a new online sales tax may be used to plug the hole in the budget rather than bring back business rates Britain’s Covid hit high street stores. The man responsible for the Treasury purse strings made his intervention in an interview with Tatton MP and former TV presenter Esther McVey as part of the Blue Collar Conservatism virtual conference with the Daily Express.
While Mr Sunak has been widely praised for his £300 billion intervention to save the economy during the crisis and protect jobs, he used the interview to apologise to those who fell through the gaps.
This included self-employed sole traders who were directors and did not qualify for most of the help on offer.
He said: “I have said very candidly in the past and apologised to those people, we haven’t been able to help everyone in exactly the way they would have liked. Sometimes it’s just practically very difficult to do and we have to protect the taxpayer and we have to have systems in place.
“I have everyone in my mind all the time and what I would say is even if you haven’t been helped in exactly the way you want there always is something we have done that could benefit you.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak
Coronavirus: The lockdown left Britain's high street stores struggling
The issue has been highlighted by former Brexit Secretary David Davis and new Wolverhampton North East MP Jane Stevenson, a former musician which is one group who were hit hard by the gap in support packages.
Mr Sunak insisted the Conservatives are still on the side of small businesses and entrepreneurs and pointed out that a million businesses have taken up the low interest, government guaranteed £50,000 ten year loans he made available.
He said: “We have always been the party of small business and rightly so, there’s nothing more admirable than people giving up the security of the regular pay cheque to do something entrepreneurial, putting in all those tough hours when it’s not going so well at the beginning to build something great. It’s something my mum did and something I have got enormous admiration for.”
The Chancellor also gave his strongest public indication yet that he is ready to abandon unpopular business rates and adopt an online sales tax which would pull in companies like Google and Amazon.
He said: “When I talk to high street businesses, the thing they most complain about are business rates.
Rishi Sunak defended Boris Johnson's decision for a 10pm curfew
This year whether you are a small retail business, hospitality, or pub, small restaurant, high street retailer in a market town, you’re not paying those business rates this year and that lasts all the way through to next Spring.
“One of our manifesto commitments was to review the business rates system. Now it’s not easy to do.
“We raise quite a lot from business rates to pay for the public services.
“It’s not easy to figure out what you can do to tweak that while still getting the cash we need to pay for the NHS or schools or police.
“But there’s lots of options in the consultation. One is an online sales tax. We have asked for people’s views on that or any other views on business rates to reform the system.”
The Chancellor insisted he is “proud” of the government’s overall response to the unprecedented events which have engulfed Britain and most of the world this year.
He said: “We should be proud as Conservatives about what we have done over the last six months.
Rishi Sunak was widely praised for his tax interventions
“The country was hit by something extraordinary and as a party and government we have stepped up we have provided a lot of support to people who really needed it, we have tried to keep the economy going and we are making really difficult decisions and of course we are not going to get everything right but as long as we are listening and adjusting ands are flexible we will get this together.”
With reports that ministers are locked in debate on how far to go with lockdown measures and claims last week that Mr Sunak prevented plans to close pubs and restaurants again to help the economy going, he had a clear message that the government needs to look beyond coronavirus.
He pointed out that restrictions that go too far risk creating poverty, which is itself a cause of chronic illnes.
The link between unemployment and ill-health is well established with Health Foundation charity figures revealing that on average, a 10 per cent increase in the employment rate results in five more years of healthy life expectancy for men.
Mr Sunak said: “We have got to look at this in the round and the costs of coronavirus are far wider than just the number of people who are affected by coronavirus.
“All these things should be in our heads as we make these decisions - what’s happening to our children’s ability to learn, university students to progress in their studies, what’s happening to unemployment and poverty.
“That has an enormous impact on people’s lives and, indeed, their health. If people are poor that is going to have an impact on chronic illness.
“We already know people have been missing appointments because of this disease.”
Mr Sunak stood by the government compromise which closed pubs and restaurants at 10pm even though many venues were unable to benefit from a second sitting of guests in the evening.
He said: “I know it’s difficult but it’s in common with what a lot of other countries have done. I know it’s frustrating. As the PM says a stitch in time save nine and if we all knuckle down it gives us more options in the future.”