Speaking in support of Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, Len McCluskey, general secretary of Unite, the UK's leading union, said:

"Andy Burnham has been doing a fantastic job in speaking up for and defending the people he has been elected to serve.

"Unite members will be forever grateful to him for fighting the corner of the low-waged and those in insecure employment, the vulnerable and the young, all of whom are paying the heaviest price of this dreadful virus. They are sure to be watching the debate in the House of Commons very closely today to see who votes to stand with them and who votes to abandon them.

"We are also 100 per cent behind Andy Burnham's calls for full furlough support to be provided to those who cannot work their usual hours as a result of the government's Tier 3 shutdown. Why can this government not get it into its head that most people, particularly those on low wages, cannot afford to lose a single pound of their pay? To lose one third of a low wage, as this government insists, is to be forced into certain debt and despair.  

"The people and the fabric of our towns and cities are being stretched to tearing point as this government repeatedly fails to do the right thing. As soon as the enormity of this virus was understood, this government should have provided support on the scale and over the same length of time as that which the French and German governments have provided for their citizens. They have refused to do so and just as with Thatcher's destruction of our industrial heartlands, the consequences of these deliberate political decisions will be felt and remembered for generations to come.  

"It is only correct therefore that mayors like Andy Burnham stand firm in the face of a Westminster government that has no problem spending billions of pounds of our money on ineffectual private sector wheezes run by their mates, yet chokes at the prospect of giving working and struggling people in the North enough to live on and businesses the resources they need to keep people in work.

"The people of the North will remember who stood shoulder to shoulder with them in their hour of need, and it will be Andy Burnham's honourable dedication to them that they will remember, in stark contrast to Boris Johnson's government's cold disinterest in their communities."