Seven former Tory ministers join group of MPs urging the PM to rethink travel quarantine plan


More than 80 British tourism chiefs including the bosses of London’s top five hotels today joined 40 MPs including seven former ministers in urging the Government to abandon its ‘poorly thought out and unworkable’ travel quarantine plan.

The new border regime which will, from June 8, require all arrivals to self-isolate for 14 days, has been widely savaged by the aviation and tourism sectors.

Critics have said the plan is ‘the very last thing’ the already ‘severely challenged’ industry as the Government comes under increasing pressure to axe it to avoid destroying the peak summer season. 

Today 80 of the biggest names in the British travel and tourism, including the owners of The Ritz, The Savoy, The Goring, Claridge’s and The Dorchester, have written to Home Secretary Priti Patel demanding she axes the rules for tourists before it starts. Others to sign the letter include Sir Rocco Forte, chief executive of Rocco Forte Hotels, and tour operator Red Savannah.

The letter says: ‘The people of this country do not wish to be prevented from travelling. The government itself has urged people to use their common sense in terms of their behaviour. Quite simply, it is time to switch the emphasis from protection to economic recovery, before it is too late.’

It then asks Ms Patel ‘to abandon the concept of mandatory quarantine and instead, champion an industry that provides not only a major economic contribution to the whole of the UK, but also such joy to so many people’.

And in another significant revolt, a cross-party group of 40 MPs – including former transport secretary Chris Grayling and six other ex-Tory ministers – have joined a taskforce calling for urgent action to rethink the plan.

It came as EasyJet revealed this morning it plans to reduce its workforce by up to 30 per cent – up to 4,500 people – as to the coronavirus pandemic decimates the airline industry.

Last night, Boris Johnson said ‘air bridges’ which could allow quarantine-free travel to holiday spots such as Spain, Portugal and Greece may be established as early as June 29 – the end of the first three-week quarantine review period – in a move which could allow summer holidays abroad.

Asked if families would be able to take advantage of cheap flights on sale for later in the summer, he said he ‘absolutely’ hoped the measures could be relaxed by the end of next month. 

The new Future of Aviation Group warns that failure to reboot air travel will risk millions of jobs and deny Britons the chance to go on holiday to countries where restrictions are being relaxed.

British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and key airplane engine supplier Rolls Royce are among the companies that have already announced brutal job cuts just weeks after furloughing staff.

The latest developments on changes to the lockdown rules came as:

  • Britons will be told to stay at home for 14 days even if they don’t have coronavirus symptoms as part of the NHS’s flagship test and trace programme today;
  • The Mail Force charity bought a million high-quality surgical face masks for the NHS and social care sector;
  • The UK’s death toll rose by 412 yesterday to reach 37,460;
  • Boris Johnson urged the nation to move on from the Dominic Cummings row over flouting social distancing rules;
  • It emerged that restaurants, pubs and hotels could open as soon next month after Mr Johnson ordered a review of the two-metre social distancing rule;
  • Figures showed that taxpayers are paying the wages of 11million workers on furlough;
  • Schools minister Nick Gibb said the vast majority of councils were preparing for schools to restart for some pupils next week;
  • Tests were expanded to all patients with symptoms, including the under-fives.

Pictured: An undated photograph of people arriving at terminal two's departure lounge at Heathrow airport

Pictured: An undated photograph of people arriving at terminal two’s departure lounge at Heathrow airport

EasyJet is to axe up to 4,500 of its 15,000-strong workforce 

Thousands of easyJet staff are to lose their jobs under plans announced by the airline.

The Luton-based carrier said it intends to reduce its workforce by up to 30% as it reduces the size of its fleet due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This follows similar moves by other airlines such as British Airways and Ryanair.

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: ‘We realise that these are very difficult times and we are having to consider very difficult decisions which will impact our people, but we want to protect as many jobs as we can for the long term.’

The taskforce, with 22 Tory MPs, wants the Government to prioritise ‘air bridges’ over quarantine. 

It came as Airlines UK, which represents British carriers, told the Mail airline bosses are in discussions with scientists on the Government’s Sage committee ‘to determine the criteria for opening up travel,’ with a view to resuming some holiday flights later this summer.

Tory MP Henry Smith, chairman of the group, told the Mail: ‘The Government should abandon quarantine as soon as possible. If we were ever going to have a blanket quarantine policy, it should have come in two or three months ago – we should be coming out of it now, not going into it.’

In a letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps today, the group makes eight points with quarantine concerns top of the list.

It has enlisted ex-aviation minister Paul Maynard, former immigration minister Caroline Nokes, ex-transport and health minister Stephen Hammond and ex-Brexit minister Steve Baker.

Former transport minister Nus Ghani and ex-health minister Philip Dunne have also signed up, along with Andrew Griffiths MP – Boris Johnson’s chief business advisor until December.

Former transport secretary Chris Grayling (pictured in 2018) and six other ex-Tory ministers – have joined a taskforce calling for urgent action to rethink the pla

Former transport secretary Chris Grayling (pictured in 2018) and six other ex-Tory ministers – have joined a taskforce calling for urgent action to rethink the pla

Separately, ex-aviation minister Theresa Villiers MP is urging a ‘proportionate approach’ with quarantine measures aimed at ‘travel from Covid hotspots’

Separately, ex-aviation minister Theresa Villiers MP is urging a ‘proportionate approach’ with quarantine measures aimed at ‘travel from Covid hotspots’

Separately, ex-aviation minister Theresa Villiers MP is urging a ‘proportionate approach’ with quarantine measures aimed at ‘travel from Covid hotspots’.

Travel quarantine plan Q&A

What will happen?

From June 8, all travellers arriving in the UK – whether by air, land or sea – will have to fill in a form before being allowed into Britain. This will include British nationals coming home, as well as foreign visitors.

You will have to provide an address where you will be staying and self-isolate there for 14 days, with no visitors and no trips outside.

Officials will carry out spot checks at addresses to ensure that people comply and public health officials will also carry out random checks by phone.

How will it work?

Passengers will be able to complete a ‘contact locator form’ on the Government’s website up to 48 hours before departure.

There will be no paper versions of the form. Failing to complete it before travelling is a crime.

However, the scheme has been criticised because checks for the forms will only be done at random, meaning some people could slip through the net.

Will anyone be exempt?

Yes. Haulage workers, medics who are helping to fight the virus and some seasonal agricultural workers.

A full list will be published on the Government’s website.

This applies to foreigners from all countries, except Ireland, in order to protect the Common Travel Area.

How long will these restrictions be in place?

Home Secretary Priti Patel described them as ‘temporary health restrictions’ but, in reality, they will be in force for as long as coronavirus remains a threat –possibly for many months.

However, there is a glimmer of hope for tourists wanting to go abroad in that the scheme will be reviewed every three weeks. So the restrictions could be lifted in time for the high season if the virus is kept under control.

Transport officials are also talking to other EU countries about the possibility of ‘air bridges’, which would allow the measures to be dropped for visitors returning from these places. Portugal, Spain and Greece have all expressed interest in creating these bridges at some point in the future.

Why is there a row about the scheme?

Travel operators are complaining that the scheme will deter travellers and will be a blow to the industry just as international travel begins to open up once again.

Britain also traditionally has a strong emphasis on personal freedom and the self-isolation requirement is a departure from that – as is the idea of having a police officer arrive on your doorstep to check your whereabouts.

However, Mrs Patel says that the measures are necessary to ‘keep the transmission rate down and prevent a devastating second wave’.

The interventions are a blow to the Government, which has already faced mounting criticism over the plans from big names in the travel and tourism industry.

The 78 business leader – who include the bosses of leading hotels and travel firms – have written to Home Secretary Priti Patel to ditch the ‘unworkable, ill-thought out and damaging’ 14-day quarantine plans. 

George Morgan-Grenville, chief executive of tour operator Red Savannah, and lead on the appeal, told The Telegraph: ‘The quarantine plans are poorly thought out, wholly detrimental to industry recovery and are more or less unworkable.

‘Signatories to this letter are more used to competing ferociously but, on this issue, we are united.’

Industry names attached to the letter include the bosses of the Savoy, Ritz, Claridge’s and travel firms Abercrombie and Kent, Jules Verne and DER Touristik.  

A Home Office spokesman said:  ‘As the world begins to emerge from what we hope is the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, we must look to the future and protect the British public by reducing the risk of cases crossing our border.

‘We continue to support businesses in the tourism sector through one of the most generous economic packages provided anywhere in the world. However, it is right that we introduce these new measures now to keep the transmission rate down and prevent a devastating second wave.’

The tourism sector accounts for almost four million jobs – 11 per cent of the country’s entire workforce – and 9 per cent of the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The vast majority of arrivals into the UK will have to give an address where they will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.

Police and local authorities will carry out spot checks at their addresses with fines of up to £1,000 for those breaching quarantine.

Unveiling the plan last week, Home Secretary Priti Patel said quarantine was vital to prevent new cases arriving.

But critics have questioned why the restrictions were not introduced in February and March when the virus was coming in from China, Italy and Spain.

The new cross-party group is working with Airlines UK, the Airport Operators Association and the International Air Transport Association to draw up ‘constructive proposals’ for the future of aviation. 

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: ‘We need to see travel corridors opened up with low-risk countries, so we’re moving towards a much more risk-based approach, working with Sage to determine the criteria for opening up travel.’ 

A Department for Transport spokesman said: ‘We are carefully considering if the concept of air bridges might be an option but the health of the public will always come first.’

The governor of the Bank of England has warned Britain’s economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis will be tougher than expected, saying a fresh wave of money creation methods will be needed.

Andrew Bailey has shied away from idea of cutting official interest rates to below zero for the first time in the Bank’s 326-year history.

Instead, he says more economic support is likely to come in the form of quantitative easing (QE) – in which the Bank buys government bonds from investors, pumping money into the economy in the process.

Since the crisis began in March, the Bank has cut official interest rates to 0.1%, announced a £200 billion expansion of QE, made moves to ease the financial pressure on large companies and made it easier for banks to lend.

Mr Bailey is wary, however, of going further by taking interest rates negative.

‘We have signalled that we stand ready to do more within the framework of policies we have used to date,’ he wrote in The Guardian.

‘And, in view of the risks we face, it is of course right that we consider what further options, such as cutting interest rates into unprecedented territory, might be available in the future. But it is also important that we consider very carefully the issues that such choices would give rise to.’

How will the coronavirus test and trace system work, will I be fined if I refuse a test and will it help to lift the coronavirus lockdown? Your questions answered about new system that launches TODAY

Locked-down Britain may finally start to return to ‘normality’ after nine weeks of uncertainty through the government’s coronavirus tracing system.

The NHS Test and Trace system for England is expected to start today at 9am for people who have Covid-associated symptoms.

It was unveiled yesterday by Health Secretary Matt Hancock , who said it was the ‘civic duty’ of the public to adhere to the new rules. 

However, it is being launched without its NHS contact tracing app centrepiece, prompting concerns that without the new technology the government could struggle to tackle the spread of the disease.

Experts immediately said the complexity of the programme meant there could be ‘several points of failure’ while the government’s political opponents said ministers should never have largely ditched contact tracing in the first place.

So what do you need to know about the NHS Test and Trace system for England? And how will it affect you and your loved ones? 

A government diagram explain how the NHS Test and Trace system will work

A government diagram explain how the NHS Test and Trace system will work

Baroness Harding

Matt Hancock

The NHS Test and Trace system was unveiled by Health Secretary Matt Hancock (right) and Baroness Harding (left) at the daily coronavirus press conference at No10 yesterday

What is the NHS Test and Trace system? 

The NHS Test and Trace system will see anyone who develops Covid-associated symptoms told to self-isolate and get tested.

The close contacts of those who are found to be positive for the disease will then be told to quarantine for 14 days – even if they test negative and are not sick. 

Boris Johnson’s government has hired an enormous army of 50,000 people who will attempt to make this huge undertaking possible. 

Around 25,000 are contact tracers who will contact people who return positive coronavirus tests to grill them on their movements and their known associates. 

The idea is to build a picture of who they have come into contact with and so who might be at risk of a) becoming ill and b) passing it on to more people.    

Another 25,000 people in the scheme are testers, who will go out into the community and test these known associates.

Either way, these known associates will be under orders to immediately quarantine, even if the tests they return are negative.  

Baroness Dido Harding, executive chairwoman of NHS Test and Trace, said the scheme was central to easing the lockdown further.

She said: ‘NHS Test and Trace is designed to enable the vast majority of us to be able to get on with our lives in a much more normal way. 

‘We will be trading national lockdown for individual isolation if we have symptoms.

‘Instead of 60 million people being in national lockdown, a much smaller number of us will be told we need to stay at home, either for seven days if we are ill or 14 days if we have been in close contact.’

The tracers can track down the contacts of 10,000 people per day. 

How exactly will the NHS Test and Trace System work? 

The UK’s coronavirus tracing programme will be split into two parts.

People will be ordered to self-isolate for seven days if they develop symptoms. Anyone in the same household will have to do the same. 

Those people should then order a coronavirus test online or by calling 119. This will be available for residents in Wales from Saturday.

If a test is positive, that victim must complete seven days in isolation. If the test comes back negative, no one needs to self-isolate.

However, people with a positive test for Covid-19 will then be contacted via text message or email or by phone and told to answer questions.

They will be asked to share phone numbers and email addresses for close contacts.

For those under 18, they will receive a call from the team and a parent or guardian must give permission for the call to continue. 

People who have been listed as a person with whom a coronavirus victim has had close contact will receive a text message or an email.

They will then be asked to self-isolate for up to 14 days based on when they last came into contact with that person.

Other household members do not need to self-isolate unless symptoms are present.

If they develop Covid-associated symptoms, all other household members should self-isolate and they should then order a test.

If the test is positive, self-isolation must continue for seven days. If the test is negative, that person should still complete 14 days in case the virus is not showing.

How long will it be before I know if I have the coronavirus?

The aim of the scheme is to get all test results processed and returned within 24 hours but it is unlikely to hit that goal right at the start of the rollout. 

That means some people could face lengthy waits to find out if they have tested positive, potentially delaying the tracing process and allowing the virus to spread. 

Baroness Harding said of the test timings so far: ‘Yesterday, the turnaround time of our tests – we returned 84 per cent of all tests in our drive-in centres within 24 hours.

‘And 95 per cent of all tests within 48 hours. I still don’t think that’s good enough. It’s got to get better and better.’ 

Who is a ‘close contact’?

A close contact is anyone who has been within two metres (6ft 6in) of the infected person for more than 15 minutes without protective equipment.

The government hopes the requirements of the system will focus the minds of the public on the importance of maintaining social distancing.

When the coronavirus app is up and running, the victim’s mobile phone should automatically identify anyone they have come close to.

Until that happens, patients will identify likely contacts via an online process.

What about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?

Scotland has announced its own system will start today.

Wales’ system is set to start in early June, while Northern Ireland has its own version of the NHS Test and Trace system up and running.

Can I choose where to isolate if I have a small child?

The government is encouraging people not to follow the example of Boris Johnson’s aide Dominic Cummings, who travelled to Durham during lockdown.

Officials want people to stay at home, while councils will offer support to parents who do not have relatives or friends who can help. 

A MailOnline chart explains how the new NHS Test and Trace system is expected to work

A MailOnline chart explains how the new NHS Test and Trace system is expected to work

The NHS Test and Trace system will be launched as the coronavirus death toll rises to 37,257

The NHS Test and Trace system will be launched as the coronavirus death toll rises to 37,257

Are there any pitfalls? If so, what are they?

Yes there are pitfalls. This scheme has been cobbled together as quickly as possible by ministers and officials working under extreme pressure.  

Experts immediately said the complexity of the programme meant there could be ‘several points of failure’ while the government’s political opponents said ministers should never have largely ditched contact tracing in the first place. 

Without the app, contact-tracking will be based on the say so of people who have tested positive. That means people will need to remember exactly where they have been and who they have been close in the days leading up to their positive test. 

If people forget or remember inaccurately who they’ve seen, the virus could spread. 

Baroness Harding told the Downing Street briefing: ‘We have 25,000 contact tracers ready to start work tomorrow – that is easily enough to trace down the contacts today when the vast majority of us are in lockdown.’

She said data from the Isle of Wight suggests people have been within two metres of fewer than five others at the moment.

How important is contact tracing to beating coronavirus?

The Royal Society believes that contact tracing reduces infection by up to 15 per cent and will miss cases, but even a marginal effect could be crucial in bringing the R infection rate below one and as close to zero as possible. 

The latest Downing Street data showed there had been 412 daily deaths from coronavirus in the UK, taking the toll to more than 37,000

The latest Downing Street data showed there had been 412 daily deaths from coronavirus in the UK, taking the toll to more than 37,000

Some 117,013 coronavirus tests were carried out in the 24 hours to 9am taking the overall total to almost four million tests carried out

Some 117,013 coronavirus tests were carried out in the 24 hours to 9am taking the overall total to almost four million tests carried out 

What happens if people refuse to isolate? Will they be fined? 

The government has said that it is relying on the British public to voluntarily self-isolate if they display symptoms of Covid-19.

But it has warned that it will impose penalties if people do not follow its orders. Spot checks could be made to households and fines could be issued.

It is not known how much people would be fined if caught flouting self-isolation. 

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care told MailOnline: ‘We are confident that the public will want to play their part in reducing the spread of the virus to keep themselves, their families and communities safe and to protect the NHS. This means complying with advice to self-isolate.

‘However, if we find that people are not complying with isolation instructions, we will not hesitate to introduce tougher measures, for example making visits to check they’re at home or issuing fines if they are found outside the house.’ 

At yesterday’s press conference, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government is ‘confident’ that when told to self-isolate, people will, adding: ‘Now of course we could also mandate that, but in the first instance we’re not going to.

‘This will be voluntary at first because we trust everyone to do the right thing.

‘But, we can quickly make it mandatory if that is what it takes. Because, if we don’t collectively make this work, then the only way forward is to keep the lockdown.’

Could people end up having to self-isolate repeatedly? 

Yes. The government has discussed imposing ‘local lockdowns’ on whole towns if there are future regional flare-ups of coronavirus cases. 

Mr Hancock said that the ability to tighten restrictions in individual regions will be part of the NHS test, track and trace system.

This could lead to local schools, businesses or workplaces being closed in areas with high prevalence of infection, according to the government’s ‘exit strategy’.

However, part of the rationale for the Test and Trace system is to allow local, small-scale action to be taken where there appears to be an outbreak.

Will people who have had coronavirus be exempt from self-isolating if they come into contact with a new Covid-19 sufferer?

No. Even people who have had positive tests for coronavirus will have to stay at home for 14 days if they come into close contact with a new sufferer.

The government has said that the scientific advice remains that it is uncertain if people who have had the virus are immune to it. 

What checks are in place to stop it being open to abuse, or pretending to have the disease as a joke? 

The emphasis of the entire scheme is on testing people. So people claiming to have the disease will be tested. There will be very little wriggle room. 

Although if those who test positive fail or refuse to reveal who they have been in contact with, without the app there is very little the contact tracers can do to tell if people are telling the truth.

Who is in charge of the operation where I am? 

Councils and public health officials will be tasked with cracking down on local outbreaks of Covid-19, but it is not clear who will lead those efforts.

It is also not clear today how many staff members would be available to help or if local authorities will get extra funding and powers to act appropriately. 

Why not simply keep going the way we are?    

Though the government claims that lockdown has dramatically reduced Covid-associated deaths, the national restrictions are destroying the economy.

Millions of workers have been furloughed by small businesses and big companies since tough restrictions on movement were introduced by the government.

Over half of the adult population of the UK is now being paid by the state in some capacity, whether in the public sector, on furlough, or benefits.

Business and companies have received hundreds of billions of pounds in emergency loans to date from Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

But this state of affairs cannot continue forever.

Economists estimated in early April that lockdown, which began on March 23, is costing Britain around £2.4billion per day.

The Bank of England forecast that UK GDP contracted by two per cent in the first quarter, and is set to shrink by 30 per cent in the second quarter.

Bank staff believe the economy could ‘bounce’ by around 15 per cent by the end of the year, meaning the UK would be around 15 per cent poorer than before lockdown.

Faced with what the Bank called the biggest economic nosedive in 300 years, the government is trying to restart the engines of UK plc.

The PM has committed himself to bringing Britain out of lockdown safely by managing the risk to public health posed by coronavirus.

The NHS Test and Trace system is meant to help do just that. 

Mr Hancock told the press briefing: ‘Until an effective treatment or vaccine comes through how can we get back to doing more of the things that make life worth living without risking safety or putting lives at risk? NHS Test and Trace is a big part – not the only part – but a big part of the answer to that question.’ 

What is this app people are talking about? 

The NHS Trace and Test system is being launched without its NHS contact-tracing app centrepiece, prompting concerns that without the new technology the government could struggle to tackle the spread of Covid-19. 

Experts believe the app will be crucial to the success of the programme because it can identify contacts much quicker than human contact tracers. 

The smartphone app uses bluetooth to register other phones it has been near for a prolonged period of time. A date has not been set for the nationwide roll out of the app but without it contact tracing will not be as swift as it would be with it. 

Matt Hancock said it is ‘not technical problems’ which are preventing the test and trace app from being rolled out nationwide.

He said: ‘It is that one of the things we learnt about in the Isle of Wight is that rolling out the system where people are asked to isolate, even if they have no symptoms, starts better when it comes in human form from the contact tracers.’

Mr Hancock added that ‘the app is working in the Isle of Wight’, and said that when the government has ‘successfully embedded’ the new NHS Test and Trace system, ‘then that is the time to bring the app to bear’.

He continued: ‘Because the app is a compliment to this system, even without it this system would be successful, but it is a compliment because there are some contacts that you don’t know that you might have made.’

Have other countries used contact tracing?

South Korea has monitored credit card transactions, CCTV footage and mobile phone locations, while Singapore has used police investigations and detective work to piece together where people have been and who they’ve seen.

Iceland saw 40 per cent of the population download its app, though its government says manual tracing is just as important.

Austria introduced a decentralised app operated by the Red Cross, which users can manually control. It was the first to roll out this app. 

 

Thousands face redundancy as one-in-four UK firms warn they won’t be able to contribute when the furlough scheme is scaled back in August 

ByJames Salmon Associate City Editor For The Daily Mail 

One in four companies say they will be not be able to pay a fifth or more of full-time workers’ salaries between August and October and would have to lay off employees, a poll has found.

Research by the Institute of Directors revealed today shows that firms are worried about being able to keep staff on if they are forced to contribute to 20 per cent of wage bills and pay National Insurance contributions.

The Institute has urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make the scheme as flexible as possible to save jobs – as is the intent of the furlough scheme.

Jonathan Geldart, of the Institute, said: ‘Business leaders know that the Government’s support can’t be infinite, but the ugly truth is that if there’s no money coming in the door, many firms will be forced to make difficult decisions come August.’

The number of jobs being bailed out by the government during lockdown has hit a new high of 8.4million – plus 2.3million self-employed.

The Institute of Directors has urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make the furlough scheme as flexible as possible to save jobs amid fears thousands of employees could be laid off when firms are told to contribute towards salaries

The Institute of Directors has urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to make the furlough scheme as flexible as possible to save jobs amid fears thousands of employees could be laid off when firms are told to contribute towards salaries

Critics are concerned the scheme is being used by some firms as a ‘waiting room’ for unemployment, with many furloughed workers set to be axed.

A string of major companies, including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Rolls Royce have announced brutal job cuts, just weeks after furloughing staff.

Yesterday, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave evidence to senior MPs on the coronavirus crisis, the transport committee’s chairman Huw Merriman asked him: ‘Why is this furlough scheme is called the Job Retention Scheme when companies like BA can put their employees on furlough and then put them under threat of redundancy at the same time?’

Mr Johnson replied: ‘I won’t go into individual companies, but I am concerned about the way some companies are treating their workforce.

‘People should not be using furlough cynically to keep people on their books and then get rid of them. We want people back in jobs.’

New figures showed another 400,000 have been furloughed over the past week, with a million employers now putting in for a total of £15billion

New figures showed another 400,000 have been furloughed over the past week, with a million employers now putting in for a total of £15billion

Almost half of the workers in the UK are now on the Government’s payroll, with the total bill for subsidising millions of jobs in the private sector increasing by £650million every day.

Official figures published yesterday revealed the mounting cost of ministers’ efforts to prevent mass unemployment.

Yesterday the Prime Minister warned companies against using the furlough scheme ‘cynically’ to keep staff on their books before axing them.

Worst is over, says Bank

The economic chaos caused by the pandemic may be bottoming out, says the Bank of England.

Andy Haldane, chief economist at the central bank, said there were signs of ‘stabilisation and a very modest recovery’.

But he added the first half of the year was ‘ugly’ and it would be some time before the economy returns to its former strength.

It follows the Bank’s publication of a ‘scenario’ earlier this month, in which it warned the economy could shrink 14 per cent in the worst annual slump since 1706.

Mr Haldane said: ‘If we’ve found our floor, and perhaps even nudged up from that floor, that’s a cause for a little bit of cautious optimism.’

The official figures show almost 11million private sector workers – around four in ten of the total – are now receiving taxpayer support from either the Job Retention Scheme or the Self Employment Income Support Scheme at a cost of almost £22billion so far.

Over the last week, another 700,000 employees and self-employed workers have been signed up for these state subsidies, adding £4.6billion to the bill.

The latest surge in claims means there are now more than 16million people in total on the Government’s payroll, including 5.4million public workers.

This is almost half the 33million people currently employed in the UK, according to Office for National Statistics.

There are growing concerns about the costs to taxpayers and what happens when Government support is withdrawn.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to announce reforms this week to keep a lid on rising costs, and ensure employers foot more of the bill.

He is expected to bar companies from furloughing more staff from August.

He is also preparing to reveal how much employers will have to start paying towards the wages of furloughed staff. 

Currently they receive 80 per cent of their wages up to a maximum of £2,500 per month from the state, and the employer can top this up if they choose.

Jonathan Geldart, of the Institute of Directors, warned that many firms will be 'forced to make difficult decisions come August'

Jonathan Geldart, of the Institute of Directors, warned that many firms will be ‘forced to make difficult decisions come August’

Under draft plans they would have to start paying a fifth of wages from August 1, meaning the Government contribution would fall to 60 per cent.

At the Liaison Committee yesterday, Mr Johnson suggested he would bring a coronavirus economic recovery package before Parliament before the Commons rises on July 21. 

The PM vowed not to increase income tax, VAT or national insurance despite coronavirus wreaking havoc on the public finances. 

He also promised that the triple lock on state pensions – which means they rise by the highest of inflation, earnings, or 2.5 per cent – would be maintained. 

Standing by the pledges, Mr Johnson told senior MPs: ‘We are going to meet all of our manifesto commitments.’  

He told the cross-party committee his desire was to ‘keep taxes as low as we possibly can consistent with our desire to invest in our fantastic public services’. 



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