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20 March 2020

Daily briefing with Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak, Jenny Harries – bars, restaurants and shops to close, and new measures to support employers and employees

Summary

Prime Minister Boris Johnson includes the following key points in his statement. 'The ambition of this government [is] to turn the tide against coronavirus within 3 months.' He thanks the public for following guidance and says the 'actions that we’re all taking together are already helping to take the strain off our NHS'. He moves on to talk about the impact on the economy, with a message to companies to 'remember our joint objective: to beat this virus. And we will do everything in our power to help'. He flags up announcements to follow from the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and describes these as 'supporting you directly in a way that government has never done before'. Measures are described as 'temporary', and he is 'confident that, in time, the UK economy is going to bounce back'. Johnson says that measures announced on Monday (16 March 2020) now need to be strengthened, following scientific advice. This includes telling cafes, pubs, bars, restaurants, as well as nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can. The situation will be reviewed each month.

Rishi Sunak makes a number of key points. He announces a further 'economic intervention… unprecedented in the history of the British state', which, combined with other announcements means 'our planned economic response will be one of the most comprehensive in the world'. Commenting on the measures announced by Boris Johnson, Rishi Sunak says 'we don’t do this lightly – we know those measures will have a significant economic impact'. He announces further measures:

  • The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for any employer. 'We have never had a scheme in our country like this before – and we’re having to build our systems from scratch.'
  • The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will now be interest free for 12 months, available starting on Monday 23 March.
  • Deferring the next quarter of VAT payments – 'a direct injection of £30bn of cash to employers, equivalent to 1.5% of GDP'.
  • Changes to the welfare system. 'I cannot promise you that no one will face hardship in the weeks ahead' – therefore he is increasing the Universal Credit standard allowance for the next 12 months by £1,000 a year, and increasing the Working Tax Credit basic element by the same. He is also suspending the minimum income floor. 'Taken together, I’m announcing nearly £7bn of extra support through the welfare system to strengthen the safety net and protect people’s incomes.'
  • For self-employed people, the next self-assessment payments will be deferred until January 2021.
  • £1bn of support for renters by increasing Housing Benefit and Universal Credit so that the Local Housing Allowance will cover at least 30% of market rents.
Source(s)

Gov.uk speech – Prime Minister's statement on coronavirus

Gov.uk speech – Chancellor's statement on COVID-19 response