Political overview – 22nd October 2020 from Grayling UK
22nd October 2020, 6:00 pm
Downing Street Press Conference Comments from Prime Minister Boris Johnson
• Appearing alongside Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance, the Prime Minister began the press conference by explaining the rationale behind the government’s “balanced” approach to tackling the crisis. The PM explained that the argument for the elderly and vulnerable to be shielded whilst the remainder of the population lived without restrictions is deeply flawed, due to the large amount of multi-generational living arrangements in the UK. He also explained that the notion of a full national lockdown was equally as flawed, due to the “obvious variation” in COVID transmission rates across the country.
Comments by Chancellor Rishi Sunak
- The Chancellor presented an update to the government’s Plan for Jobs by introducing a series of new economic support measures.
- The Chancellor stated that the Job Support Scheme (open) will become “more generous” with employees only needing to work 20% of their normal working hours to qualify, rather than the previous threshold of 33%. Employers will also only have to contribute 5% of an employee’s salary for their hours not worked (rather than the previous amount of 33%) with the government covering the rest of the cost up to two thirds of their salary (capped at £1541.75 per month).
- The Job Support Scheme (closed) remains unchanged – for businesses which must close due to restrictions, the government will pay 67% of employee wages. Closed businesses do not have to contribute towards wages, but must still make employee National Insurance and pension contributions.
- The Chancellor announced that the self-employed grant will rise from 20% to 40% of profits covered in the two forthcoming self-employed grants, meaning the maximum grant will increase from £1,875 to £3,750.
- The Chancellor went on to announce a new grant scheme for businesses impacted by tier 2 restrictions. Local authorities will deliver these cash grants, giving them the flexibility to decide which businesses need support. The total funding will be enough for £2,100 per month for every hospitality, leisure and accommodation business. These grants will be backdated to August for any areas that have been under enhanced restrictions.
- Further information on the new announcements is available here. Comments by Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance
• The CSA noted that the number of people being admitted to hospital with COVID-19, as well as the total number of cases across the country, was continuing to rise, and is expected to do so over the coming weeks. He warned that the primary reason why routine treatments had been cancelled was because of COVID patients taking up hospital beds. As such, he urged the public to remain vigilant and stick to the rules.
• In response to a question from BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg, Sir Patrick stated that “a lot depends on what happens now over the next few weeks” when asked if he would agree with the Scottish Clinical Director that people should prepare for a “digital Christmas”.
- The Prime Minister admitted that there was room for improvement in the UK’s Test andTrace scheme, as figures show that only 15% of tests have been returned within 24hrs. The CSA agreed with the PM, and noted that “it is very clear there is room for improvement”.
- The PM pushed back when criticised for not securing a deal with Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, stressing that negotiations between local authorities had to be based on “fairness”, insisting that more attractive deals couldn’t be made for some authorities and not others.
- The PM also highlighted that taxpayers would have to pay back the money the government has provided in financial support measures, yet quickly stressed that the government’s objective was to ensure the UK has a quick economic bounce back.
- Johnson repeated earlier comments that a circuit breaker would be economically damaging to the country when asked if he would follow the example of Wales and Northern Ireland. The CSA finished by refusing to speculate on the progress of finding a vaccine.
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