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Michael Gove says people should go back to work ‘to fire up the economy’ after months of lockdown

The Cabinet Office minister said it remained ‘appropriate and convenient’ for some people to work from home. (Image: Sky News)

4 min read

People should go back to work “wherever they can” in order to get the British economy “fired up again” after months of lockdown, Michael Gove has said.

The Cabinet Office minister said that while it remained “appropriate and convenient” for some people to work from home, workers should head back in where possible so the “economy can benefit”.

And he moved to dampen speculation that the Government could mandate mask-wearing in shops as he said ministers wanted to "encourage people, and to support people" to follow existing guidance.

Mr Gove’s comments come after Boris Johnson signalled a shift in the Government’s message on working from home, telling the country on Friday that people should “go back to work if you can” now that a host of lockdown restrictions have been lifted.

Ministers are reportedly also considering steps to try and boost confidence in the country’s public transport network to get people back into places of work.

Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mr Gove said: “We want to see more people back at work, on the shop floor, in the office, wherever they can be.

“Of course, in some cases it's appropriate and convenient for people to work from home, but we want to make sure that where people can add value, where the economy can benefit from people being at work, that they are at work.”

He added: “We want to make sure that the economic engines of this country are fired up again, and that's why the Chancellor made the series of announcements that he made earlier this week, in order to make sure that we're in a position to be able to provide people with safety and security at work, to protect their jobs, and to guarantee jobs in the future.”

Asked whether the Government felt Brits had become too used to working from home, the Cabinet Office minister said: “I think that working from home, of course, has been for many people an absolute requirement during the pandemic.

“But there are certain jobs, of course, where it's impossible to work from home, you have to be on the shop floor in order to be able to be part of the productive economy and to enjoy your work.”


Mr Gove’s comments came as Labour backed the compulsory wearing of face coverings in shops in England, after a similar move by Scotland to make their use a legal requirement.

In England, the wearing of face masks is only compulsory on public transport.

Shadow minister Lucy Powell said: “We do need to get a lot more confidence back in the system.

“And if mandatory wearing of face masks in shops will help to do that, then we absolutely support it.”

But Mr Gove sounded a more cautious note on legally enforcing the wearing of masks indoors, telling the Andrew Marr Show: “I don’t think [they should be] mandatory, no.

"But I would encourage people to wear face masks, when they’re inside, in an environment where they’re likely to be mixing with others and where the ventilation may not be as good as it might.”

And he told Sky's Sophy ridge: “I think we should do everything we can to encourage people, and to support people, to wear face masks in enclosed places, particularly shops. 

“And I think that it will be the case that government will be able to help in that regard. 

“We're investing in significantly increasing the capacity to manufacture face masks in the UK.”

But he said: “There are appropriate moments, of course, when a direct message to say to people ‘don't do x or do do y’ is appropriate. 

“But I also think that it's quite right to treat the British people with a respect that their intelligence and their judgement deserves. 

“And in this case, one of the things that I think is right is to say, is outside you don't need to wear a face mask. Inside, particularly in an enclosed space with full ventilation, it absolutely is a good idea.

“On public transport you should be wearing it because of the necessary benefits that it brings to others.“

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