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Rishi Sunak unveils bailout for self-employed, but admits it will not be available until June

The Chancellor said his new scheme would not be available until June 
The Chancellor said his new scheme would not be available until June  Credit: AFP

Rishi Sunak has unveiled the Government's bailout for the self-employed , but admitted it will not be available until June.

As the Chancellor promised that the self-employed "had not been forgotten" during the coronavirus pandemic, he set out that they would be able to claim support worth 80 per cent of their average monthly profits. 

He said the "unprecedented" self-employed income support scheme , which is worth up to a maximum of £2,500 a month, would cover 95 per cent of self-employed workers.

The package comes after the Government came under sustained pressure as its initial package of financial support only covered employees.

However Mr Sunak faced criticism when he revealed that the scheme would not be available until June. 

Andy Burnham, the Manchester mayor, said that while this move was welcome "initial feedback says June will be a stretch", while  Labour MP Wes Streeting said many would be "left in financial hardship" because they do not have money to last until June. 

Mr Sunak said the grant "provides an unprecedented level of support for self-employed people".

 

Sunak's announcement welcomed by businesses 

Business groups and union leaders welcomed the package of measures for self-employed workers and urged the Government to make sure the support was available as quickly as possible.

  • Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the CBI, said: "Many self-employed people across the UK will be hugely relieved tonight. "These new measures will provide essential support to those facing significant uncertainty and loss of income."
  • Tim Roache, general secretary of the GMB union, added that "millions of self-employed workers will sleep easier tonight". He said: "When this is all over we will need to ask how many workers classed as 'self-employed' genuinely fall into that category - the explosion of fake self-employment has undoubtedly made this much more difficult."
  • Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: "Construction workers across the country will now be taking a collective sigh of relief knowing they will now be protected in the same way that employees will be if they lose work due to Covid-19.  "We now urge the Treasury and HMRC to ensure that all support packages are up and running as soon as physically possible."

Right the ship

Mr Sunak said he would look to address an inconsistency in self-employed contributions in the future when working to "right the ship" after the crisis.

Rather than be too specific right now about future tax policy, it's just an observation that there's currently an inconsistency in contributions between self-employed and employed.

And the actions taken today, which is very significant tens of billions of pounds of support for those who are self-employed treating them the same way as those who are employed, it does throw into light the question of consistency and whether that is fair to everybody going forward.

Especially as when we get through this and are chipping in together to right the ship afterwards making sure everyone is doing their bit as well.

'We must all pay in equally in future'

Rishi Sunak suggested self-employed workers could have to accept changes to their tax breaks as a result of receiving state support to help them through the coronavirus outbreak.

"I must be honest and point out that in devising this scheme in response to many calls for support, it is now much harder to justify the inconsistent contributions between people of different employment statuses," he said.

"If we all want to benefit equally from state support, we must all pay in equally in future."

Nigel Farage says people cannot wait until June

Today's new scheme is 'fair'

Before taking questions from the press, Mr Sunak adds: "The scheme I have announced today is fair. It is targeted at those who need it the most and crucially, it is deliverable. It provides an unprecedented level of support for self-employed people."

Tax return deadline extended 

The Chancellor said that in order to make sure no one misses out on support, "we have decided to allow anyone who missed the filing deadline in January, four weeks from today to submit their tax return".

95% of self-employed will benefit from the scheme 

Mr Sunak said the scheme was "generous" and that 95% of people who are majority self-employed will benefit from this scheme.

"HMRC are working urgently, we expect people to access it no later than the beginning of June.

"If eligible, HMRC will contact you with an online form, they pay the grant straight to your bank account."

The grant will be capped  at those with taxable profits of up to £50,000

The scheme will be open for at least 3 months across the UK and will be extended if necessary.

"We’re covering the same amount of income as we are for furloughed employees, who also get a grant worth 80%. That’s unlike almost any other country, making our scheme one of the most generous in the world," he says. 

The grant is only available for those with taxable profits of up to £50,000, who make a majority of their income from self-employment.

He adds that to minimise fraud only those already in self-employment, who have a tax return for 2019, can apply.

Rishi Sunak sets out 'next steps' to help the self-employed

Speaking live from Downing Street, the Chancellor says that while he is "proud of what we've done so far", he understands that many self-employed are anxious about what happens next. 

"You have not been forgotten," he says, as he announces a new self-employed income support team. 

It includes a taxable grant worth 80% of their average profits  over the past three years, up to £2500 per month.

Boris Johnson says 'the world must step up to help us defeat' coronavirus 

UK donates  £210 million to fight coronavirus 

The UK has become the largest contributor to the international coalition to find a coronavirus vaccine after donating £210 million in new aid funding, Downing Street has said. 

Boris Johnson announced the funding during a virtual summit of G20 leaders, Downing Street said.

While our brilliant doctors and nurses fight coronavirus at home, this record British funding will help to find a vaccine for the entire world. UK medics and researchers are at the forefront of this pioneering work.

My call to every G20 country and to governments around the world is to step up and help us defeat this virus.

In the meantime, I want to repeat to everyone that they should stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.

G20 leaders promise a 'spirit of solidarity' 

Following their video conference call, leaders of the G20 group - including Boris Johnson - issued a joint statement where they promised a "transparent, robust, co-ordinated, large-scale and science-based global response in the spirit of solidarity".

"Tackling the pandemic and its intertwined health, social and economic impacts is our absolute priority," they said. 

The leaders promised to "expand manufacturing capacity to meet the increasing needs for medical supplies and ensure these are made widely available, at an affordable price, on an equitable basis, where they are most needed and as quickly as possible".

They also promised to provide immediate resources to the WHO's Covid-19 solidarity response fund, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovation (CEPI) and Gavi, the vaccine alliance, on a voluntary basis.

Public who break coronvirus rules can be arrested 

People who continue to flout coronavirus lockdown rules will be breaking the law and can be arrested as part of new enforcement powers announced by the Home Office.

Officers can also tell them to go home, leave or disperse an area and ensure parents are taking necessary steps to stop their children breaking the law.

Those who refuse to comply could be issued with a fixed penalty notice of £60, which will be lowered to £30 if paid within 14 days.

Second-time offenders could be issued a fixed penalty notice of £120, doubling on each further repeat offence.

Those who do not pay the penalty can be taken to court, with magistrates able to impose unlimited fines.

Priti Patel said that all of the UK's frontline services were doing "an incredible job to stop this terrible virus from spreading".

"That's why I'm giving the police these new enforcement powers, to protect the public and keep people safe," she said.

Priti Patel reiterates that deliberately coughing on people is a crime

'Aid for self-employed needs to be universal'

Tory former health minister Steve Brine said that Government aid for self-employed people needed to be universal.

"I appreciate that this is difficult. And I've said in the House on Tuesday that I can absolutely see why this life boat set sail later than the PAYE one," he told the World at One programme:

"But, if it needs to be more universal than targeted, and if there is a challenge, if there's a problem, let's face it, HMRC are not adverse to clawing back - and I appreciate there are some self-employed people who earn a lot - but the vast majority don't, so it needs to be simple, fair and universal."

An empty Westminster bridge

Over the last few days photos have been appearing of how quiet the capital is, as more and more people work from home. 

Today's image shows a nearly empty Westminster Bridge,  except for two members of the Household Cavalry crossing:

Westminster Bridge in lockdown Credit: TOBY MELVILLE/Reuters 

Boris Johnson criticised for ignoring EU coronavirus ventilators scheme

Boris Johnson has been accused of putting Brexit before people’s lives after refusing to take part in EU joint procurement schemes for ventilators  fight the coronavirus pandemic, James Crisp,  Brussels Correspondent, writes. 

The EU joint procurement initiatives looks to leverage the bloc’s heft to secure life-saving medical equipment more quickly and cheaply. 

Downing Street has instead put out a call to tender for British firms to manufacture ventilators and ordered 10,000 from Dyson.

Asked why the UK had ignored the EU scheme, the prime minister’s spokesman said, “because we are no longer members of the EU.”

Read the story in full here

Scottish Government buys extra 1.5 million face masks

Nicola Sturgeon announced that the Scottish Government has brought an extra 1.5 million face masks into use from the NHS Scotland stockpile during the coronavirus epidemic.

The masks had passed expiry dates of June and August 2019 but have gone through "extensive testing" which has shown them fit for use, the First Minister said.

Scotland's health secretary Jeane Freeman added that the Scottish Government is also paying "very close and detailed daily attention" to the overall stock of personal protective equipment for health and social staff.

Boris Johnson and Priti Patel are at odds over closing borders 

No 10 has said there are "no plans" to restrict flights from countries with severe coronavirus outbreaks.

The PM's spokesman said:  "The level of inward travel into the UK has fallen greatly since the outbreak of the virus and we've seen many transport providers reduce their services.

"The Chief Medical officer has said there's no evidence that closing borders would have an effect on the spread of infection."

It comes after The Telegraph reported that the Home Secretary wants to close UK borders to prevent thousands of passengers from coronavirus hotspot countries coming to Britain.

She believes visitors from nations such as Iran, the US and China should not be continuing to fly into the UK when the Government has put the country in lockdown to halt the spread of the virus.

'We are conducting our own work'

Downing Street has denied it is not taking part in an EU drive to get extra ventilators for coronavirus patients because of ideology surrounding Brexit.

Asked at today's lobby briefing why the UK decided not to take part in the scheme, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "Well we are no longer members of the EU.

"We are conducting our own work on ventilators and we've had a very strong response from business and we've also procured ventilators from the private sector in the UK and from international manufacturers."

Pressed if the decision was related to Brexit ideology, the spokesman said: "No, as I say, this is an area where we're making our own efforts."

Calls for more volunteers 

Downing Street has raised the target for volunteers to help vulnerable people through the coronavirus crisis to 750,000 after more than half a million people responded to the call.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman told a Westminster briefing that the scheme would not close, even though 560,000 have now volunteered to help.

He said: "I think the most recent number I've seen was around 560,000 people who have volunteered so far which is amazing - but we want people to continue to volunteer and if we can reach a number of 750,000 then that would be fantastic."

An additional 8,000 ventilators to be available in coming weeks 

Downing Street expects "thousands" of the 8,000 additional ventilators on their way to the NHS to be available in the "coming weeks" with a peak in coronavirus cases looming.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "Of those 8,000, we would say we expect thousands of those to arrive in the coming weeks and thousands more in the pipeline to arrive in the coming months."

It was also confirmed that Dyson and other manufacturers making ventilators for coronavirus patients must pass regulatory tests before the Government purchases the machines. 

Safety of those who need this vital equipment is our absolute priority. We are now testing proof of concepts from a number of suppliers in the coming days with the support of expert clinicians and health regulators.

New orders are all dependent on machines passing regulatory tests; this is the case with Dyson. Their machines must meet the necessary safety and regulatory standards - if they do not they will not be brought or rolled out to hospitals.

10,000 people per day to be tested by end of week 

Number 10 has insisted that the Government was on course to test 10,000 people a day by the end of the week, despite testing just 6,643 on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister's spokesman said: "It remains the aim to get to 10,000 per day this week." 

He added: "What I'd stress is that if we are able to find an antibody test which works, that could be a game changer. For that reason, you will understand that Government is doing everything that it can to seek to find a test which works."

More money for coronavirus research could be on the cards 

Boris Johnson, who chaired a Covid-19 meeting this morning, is expected to announce further funding on Thursday for research to accelerate the development of a coronavirus vaccine, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister should make the announcement after taking part in a virtual summit of G20 leaders from midday.

Adversaries may strike whilst the UK is distracted 

Tobias Ellwood, the chairman of the Defence Select Committee, warned in The Telegraph a couple of weeks ago that there would be some who sought to take advantage of the UK whilst it was distracted by coronavirus. 

I'm reminded of his comments after the Royal Navy announced that it has been shadowing Russian ships in waters around the UK amid "unusually high levels of activity", 

In particular, Mr Ellwood had said it was crucial that sea deterrents and Nato commitments were maintained whilst the UK worked to contain the pandemic, as he cautioned that it was a prime opportunity for attacks to be carried out. 

Read the piece in full here 

Royal Navy shadows Russian ships 

The force completed a "large-scale operation" shadowing seven Russian vessels in waters around the UK amid "unusually high levels of activity" during the coronavirus pandemic.

Military chiefs  announced the activity in the English Channel and North Sea. 

The operation, backed by Nato allies, also came after EU experts accused Russian state media of waging a disinformation campaign over the coronavirus crisis.

A Navy statement said:

As the Royal Navy prepares to help the NHS and other Government departments deal with the response to the coronavirus outbreak, nine British ships have been shadowing seven Russian vessels in waters around the UK.

The Navy has completed a concentrated operation to shadow the Russian warships after unusually high levels of activity in the English Channel and North Sea.

Type 23 frigates HMS Kent, HMS Sutherland, HMS Argyll and HMS Richmond joined Offshore Patrol Vessels HMS Tyne and HMS Mersey along with RFA Tideforce, RFA Tidespring and HMS Echo for the large-scale operation with support from Nato allies.

Government-charted flight has safe return

Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, has just confirmed this news:

Will the lockdown end in 3 weeks? 

Dr Jenny Harries, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, has hinted that this lockdown will likely last longer than the three weeks initially stipulated by Boris Johnson. 

"We clearly don't want people to change their lifestyles in the way they are having to do for very good reasons," she told Woman's Hour.

"Equally, we don't want to lift those measures sooner and find that we have a sudden upsurge and our efforts will have been wasted. 

"Overall we are looking at a scenario of over a 6 month period but not necessarily with a lock down of this level going on throughout that time. We are likely able to raise some of the measures as we go forward and keep in a very controlled pattern."  

Sadiq Khan tells commuters not to travel at rush hour 

After more people took to Twitter this morning to express their frustration at taking cramped tubes to get to work, the London Mayor said: 

His key points are that they cannot run more tubes due to dwindling staff numbers and urged people not to travel at rush hour. 

Be less wasteful, supermarkets urge shoppers 

The Chairman of Ocado, Lord Rose, called on shoppers to show restraint as he reiterated the message that there is no food shortage. 

"There is a billion pounds more food in people's larders than there was a couple of weeks ago - what are they doing with it? How much food do you need to eat? How much do you need to store away? Please show some restraint," he said on the Today programme.

"There is no shortage of food ... Nobody will starve."

Lord Rose also urged shoppers to be less wasteful when it comes to cooking, stating that a whole chicken could be made to last three meals. 

He suggested roasting it on the first day, using left overs to make a stir fry on the second and then using the carcass to make a soup on the third. 

Lord Rose added that our consumer habits had changed a lot over the years and it was important to try be less wasteful and make meals last for longer.  

Tests, deliveries and PPE

Other areas discussed by health minister James Argar included:

  • The deliveries of more ventilators
  • More coronavirus tests (and added  "some of the best brains in the world" are working on this)
  • Spoke of a dedicated hotline set up for NHS staff who need more PPE delivered 

Asked about the delivery of ventilators and coronavirus tests, Mr Argar told Today:

I think everyone would appreciate we are moving heaven and earth to get this done as quickly as we can but this is a huge logistical exercise.

We moved fast when we knew and we got the scientific modelling of what was happening with this virus, that it was moving towards the UK and how it has grown in the UK.

And we moved fast to place the orders, to get the processes in place to do this, but that is a big logistical task, so those bits of kit will come through over time but swiftly.

Today's big announcement 

Is all about what Rishi Sunak will declare for the self-employed. 

Here are some essential pieces to read to bring you up to speed with the current situation:

PPE deliveries are being increased, health minister insists 

Edward Argar said personal protective equipment (PPE) deliveries are being increased, as he added millions of masks and gloves have already been delivered.

"We entirely understand how important it is that you (frontline staff) get the kit that you need and feel safe and are safe in doing this amazing work that you are doing," he told BBC Breakfast.

Mr Argar said the Government was "ramping up" deliveries of PPE, and had in the last few days delivered 24 million pairs of protective gloves, along with 13 million protective face masks.

On ventilators, he said an additional 8,000 were being ordered and manufactured and should be available in the next week or two.

Politics today 

Good morning. 

The Chancellor will later this afternoon announce his emergency package for the self employed. 

There is lots of speculation about who will benefit (such as cab drivers and cleaners) and those who won't as much, with tech coders being cited as one example.

People will also want to know what the package will be capped at, with one figure of £50,000 being circulated.

At around noon Boris Johnson will take part in a G20 video conference call to discuss coronavirus and later today we can expect to hear about the new powers police will be granted in order to deal with people who are flouting the lockdown rules.