Highlights from the UK government’s press briefings

3rd December 2020

Please find below highlights from the Prime Minister’s statement on coronavirus. The Prime Minister’s statement can be read in full here.

Highlights:

  • Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK Government accepted the recommendation from the independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for distribution across the UK
  • Johnson added that the UK purchased more than 350 million doses of seven different vaccine candidates
  • Johnson said the UK was the first country in the world to pre-order supplies of this Pfizer vaccine, securing 40 million doses
  • The NHS has been preparing for the “biggest programme of mass vaccination” in the UK’s history and it will begin next week
  • In line with the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, the first phase will include care home residents, health and care staff as well as the elderly and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable
  • Johnson added that there are logistical challenges to distributing the vaccine:
    • The vaccine must be stored at minus 70 degrees and can only be moved in batches of 975 doses
    • Each person needs two injections, three weeks apart
  • As a result of these challenges, Johnson stated that it would take some months before all of the most vulnerable are protected

 

26th November 2020

Please find below highlights from Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s statement to the House of Commons on the English tier system this morning. The government has also published a full list of which parts of England will be in which tier from 2 December, the list can be viewed here.

Highlights

  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock begun his statement by mentioning how the Prime Minister, on 23 November, set out his COVID-19 Winter Plan to suppress the COVID-19 virus and protect the NHS and the vulnerable
  • Hancock announced that on 2 December the government will lift the national restrictions across all of England and the following restrictions will be eased:
    • The stay-at-home requirement will end
    • Non-essential retail, gyms, and personal care will reopen. The wider leisure and entertainment sectors will also reopen, although to varying degrees
    • Communal worship, weddings, and outdoor sports can resume
    • People will no longer be limited to seeing one other person in outdoor public spaces, where the rule of six will now apply
  • The tier system will have three levels ranging from Medium Alert (Tier 1), High Alert (Tier 2), and Very High Alert (Tier 3). The different restrictions within each tier level are explained here.
  • London has been placed into the tier 2 category of restrictions, and the full list of local restrictions by tier area can be viewed here
  • Hancock emphasised that the regulations will require the government to review the allocations every 14 days, with the first review complete by the end of 16 December
  • Hancock reaffirmed the UK-wide arrangements for Christmas, allowing friends and loves ones to reunite and form a Christmas bubble of three households for five days over the Christmas period
  • Hancock added that a postcode tracker will be available for the public to check what rules apply in their local area
  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock stated that with 16,570 people in hospital across the UK and 696 deaths reported yesterday we cannot “flick a switch” and have life back to normal as this would see the NHS overwhelmed.

 

25th November 2020

Today, the UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, outlined the government’s Spending Review, covering FY 2021-2022 and the economic response by the government to COVID-19. Below are the highlights from his statement in Parliament. You can read the full review here.

Highlights

  • The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) expects the economy to shrink by 11.3% in 2020, before growing by 5.5% in 2021 and 6.6% in 2022. The economy is not expected to reach the pre-crisis level until the end of 2022.
  • A new National Infrastructure Strategy that sets out the government’s plans to transform the UK’s economic infrastructure. It is based around three central objectives: economic recovery; levelling up and unleashing the potential of the Union; and meeting the UK’s net zero emissions target by 2050.
  • A new £2.9bn Restart programme to provide intensive support over 3 years to help people find work, with £0.4bn allocated to 2021-22
  • 2.2% increase in the National Living Wage for those aged 23 or over, to £8.90 per hour
  • £100bn of capital spending next year – £27 billion more in real terms than 2019-20
  • An additional £38bn for public services to continue to fight the pandemic this year, bringing total support for public services to £113bn in 2020-21, and total spending on the COVID-19 response this year to over £280bn.
  • A new £4bn Levelling Up fund, where localities can apply to have local projects funded
  • A £6.3bn increase in NHS spending in 2021-22 compared to 2020-21
  • Nearly £20bn invested into building new housing, with the launch of the National Home Building Fund (£7.1bn) and the Affordable Homes Programme (£1bn)
  • £572m for DEFRA to take advantage of opportunities resulting from regulatory independence

Economic Forecast by the OBR

  • Economy expected to shrink by 11.3% in 2020, before growing by 5.5% in 2021 and 6.6% in 2022
  • UK expected to borrow a total of £394bn in 2020-21
  • Unemployment expected to peak in Q2 2021 at 2.6m (7.5%), falling to 4.4% by Q4 2024

Business Rates

  • The Spending Review confirmed that the government is undertaking a fundamental review of the business rates system and is currently considering responses to the call for evidence, with a final report outlining the conclusions of the review in spring 2021.
  • The government has decided to freeze the business rates multiplier in 2021-22, with local authorities fully compensated for said decision.
  • The government has decided not to proceed with a reset of business rates baselines in 2021-22 and will maintain the existing 100% business rates pilots for a further year. The Government will consult on reforms to the New Homes Bonus shortly, with a view to implementing reform in 2022-23.

Support for businesses

  • £519m of funding in 2021-22 to support the continued delivery of COVID-19 loans, including paying for the 12-month interest free period on the BBLS and the CBILS .
  • The British Business Bank received £557.5m capital funding on top of the money it received to support businesses through COVID, this includes:
    • £442m for SME access to finance support
    • £56.5m for the expansion of the Start-Up Loans scheme
    • Money to support innovation and growth finance, regional finance, and the National Security Strategic Investment Fund
  • On SMEs, the government provided £50.7m to improve ‘productivity’

Jobs

  • £1.4bn of new funding to increase the capacity of the Job Centre Plus network and double the number of work coaches
  • A new £2.9bn Restart programme to provide intensive support over 3 years to help people find work
  • 2.2% increase in the National Living Wage for those aged 23 or over, to £8.90 per hour
  • £1.6bn of funding in 2021-22 for the Kickstart scheme for young people, ensuring funding for over 250,000 jobs
  • Pay freeze for public sector workers working outside of the NHS or earning above £24,000 per year

Infrastructure

  • Funding for the new National Infrastructure Strategy, aiming to create jobs, strengthen the Union and achieve net zero emissions by 2050
  • The launch of a £4bn Levelling Up fund, where localities can apply for funding for local infrastructure projects
  • £19bn to be invested in transport infrastructure in 2021-22
  • Over £22bn allocated to the High Speed 2 high-speed railway project
  • £2.5bn to be invested in intra-city transportation throughout 8 city regions
  • The launch of a new infrastructure bank headquartered in the north of England to finance new investment projects across the UK

Brexit

  • £572m for DEFRA to take advantage of opportunities resulting from regulatory independence
  • £1bn allocated to HMRC to reform and enhance the UK customs system following the end of the transition period
  • £363m to recruit 1,100 additional customs agents
  • £217m to deliver the Future Borders and Immigration system
  • £60m for the FCDO to support the UK’s new relationship with the EU and its member states following the end of the transition period

Housing and local government

  • Nearly £20bn invested into building new housing, with the launch of the National Home Building Fund (£7.1bn) and the Affordable Homes Programme (£12.2bn)
  • An additional £51bn (4.5%) in total core spending power for local authorities in 2021-22
  • Over £3bn for local authorities in coronavirus financial support for 2021-22
  • £621m for the Towns Fund
  • £254m in extra funding to combat rough sleeping and homelessness

Digital

  • £5bn to support the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband to rural areas of the UK
  • £250m to support the construction of the UK’s 5G network, including £50m in 2021-22
  • Over £200m for flagship digital infrastructure programmes, including the Shared Rural Network for 4G coverage, Local Full Fibre Networks and the 5G Testbeds and Trials Programme
  • £22m to drive growth throughout the digital economy

Energy and Climate

  • £1bn increase in budget for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • £1.9bn for electric vehicle charging points
  • £240m Net Zero Hydrogen Fund
  • £1bn for a Carbon Capture and Storage Infrastructure Fund
  • £500m in the next four years for the development and mass-scale production of electric vehicle batteries and associated EV supply chain
  • £950 million to support the rollout of rapid electric vehicle (EV) charging hubs at every service station on England’s motorways and major A-roads
  • £582 million for the Plug-in Car, Van, Taxi, and Motorcycle Grant until 2022-23, reducing the sticker price of zero and ultra-low emission vehicles for the consumer
  • £275 million to extend support for charge point installation at homes, workplaces and on-street locations

NHS

  • A cash increase of £33.9 billion a year by 2023-24, taking the core NHS England budget from £114.6 billion in 2018-19 to £148.5 billion in 2023-24. This includes an increase in core funding of £6.3 billion in 2021-22.
  • Over £325m to fund new equipment and £260m on training the NHS workforce
  • £15bn to support NHS Test and Trace next year

Defence

  • An extra £24bn in cash term over four years, creating 40,000 jobs – the largest increase in defence funding for 30 years
  • Defence budget will grow at an average of 1.8% per year in real terms from 2019-20 to 2024-25

Justice

  • A £9.8bn (8.0%) increase in the budget of the Ministry of Justice
  • Over £4bn in capital funding over 4 years to deliver 18,000 new prison places across England and Wales

Home Office

  • Additional £64 million resource and £153 million capital funding to deliver the new points-based migration system.
  • The additional £30 million resource funding provided in the 2019 Spending Review to tackle child sexual exploitation to continue
  • An additional £400m to support the government’s pledge to deliver 20,000 new officers by 2023, with 6,000 new police officers to be in place by 2021-2022.

Education

  • £2.9bn (3.4%) increase in the budget for the Department for Education
  • £2.5bn to support and improve apprenticeships
  • £2.2bn increase in core school budget
  • £1.8bn to maintain and improve school buildings

International Development

  • Cut in the international development budget from 0.7% of GNI to 0.5%, saving £4bn

 

23rd November 2020

Today, in an address to the House of Commons, the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced the government’s COVID Winter Plan which is a stricter version of the three-tier system of rules that were in place across England before the current lockdown. The Prime Minister’s full statement can be read here. Below are the highlights from his statement:

  • The Prime Minister emphasised that the country must get through winter without the virus spreading out of control and argued that the COVID Winter Plan would “help us get to spring safely”.
  • Johnson announced that the national restrictions ending on 2 December will not be renewed but that the government will introduce a “new, stronger, and more sustainable” tiers framework on 2 December.
  • The tier system will have three levels ranging from Medium Alert (Tier 1), High Alert (Tier 2), and Very High Alert (Tier 3). The different restrictions within each tier level are explained here.
  • The tier system will be in place until March 2021, and individual regional restrictions will be reviewed every 14 days.
  • Johnson stated that with NHS Test and Trace and the Armed Forces, the government will launch a major community testing programme that will offer all local authorities in tier 3 areas in England a six-week surge of testing.
  • On vaccines, Johnson said that the government has ordered 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, and over 350 million in total, more than enough for everyone in the UK, the Crown Dependencies and the Overseas Territories adding that the NHS is preparing a nationwide immunisation programme, to be ready next month

 

20th November 2020

Below are the highlights from the government’s briefing this evening on coronavirus. Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Prof Stephen Powis, National Medical Director, NHS England and Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England delivered this briefing.

  • The main takeaway is that the UK Government has formally asked the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to assess whether to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. MHRA will submit their full data in the coming days. If approved, the vaccine will be available via the NHS for free, and the roll-out to all of the UK will begin in December.
  • Hancock said the approval process was “another important step forward in tackling this pandemic”. He said the speed of the roll-out of a vaccine would depend on the speed at which it could be manufactured. He added that “If the regulator approves a vaccine, we will be ready to start the vaccination next month with the bulk of roll-out in the new year. We are heading in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go.”
  • When asked if there will be enough supply to vaccinate everyone by April, Hancock says there are “uncertainties” but the task for the NHS is to make sure it can deploy the vaccine as quickly as it can be manufactured. Hancock added he cannot give a figure on the take-up percentage required yet.
  • On restrictions in England after 2 December and over Christmas, Hancock admits “it is still too early to tell” and cites the ONS study published today shows that the peak is flattening. He added the government is trying to have a “consistent set of rules” across the UK so people can visit their loved ones.
  • Free flu jabs will be available in England for the over-50s from 1 December.
  • In the UK, the average number of cases per day stands at 22,287 In the last 24-hours, 511 people died of COVID-19.

 

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