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Lockdown roadmap ‘will focus on personal responsibility over Covid laws’

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/lockdown-roadmap-covid-laws-matt-hancock-boris-johnson-b920832.html

Lockdown roadmap ‘will focus on personal responsibility over Covid laws’
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inisters want to eventually ditch social distancing laws and move to “personal responsibility”, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said, as Boris Johnson hailed the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown as a way to make lives “incomparably better”.

He also admitted he cannot guarantee that the vaccination programme will prevent restrictions from ever returning. The four-part plan reportedly came after scientists warned the Prime Minister that lifting restrictions at Easter could cause a surge in infections.

Today, Mr Hancock said part of the plan is to encourage people to make their own decisions on how to approach socialising, rather than having laws “that get in the way of normal life”.

He told Times Radio: “Patrick Vallance was clear yesterday that mask wearing in winter is one of the examples of things that might need to stay.

“What we want to do is get rid of the social distancing-type laws that get in the way of normal life and move to personal responsibility, rather than laws dictating how all of us live our daily lives.”

He added: “But, it is also clear that eradication is unfortunately not possible with this disease, so we are going to have to learn to live with it.

“In the same way that for instance we live with flu, but we don’t let flu get in the way of living our lives.

“But we do vaccinate against it every year – in the case of flu we vaccinate those who are most vulnerable – and so I expect to have that vaccination programme as a regular feature of future life.”

He also urged people to continue to follow the current lockdown restrictions.

He told Sky News: “This isn’t just about choices the Government makes, it’s about how everybody responds and pulls together.

“We can see the light at the end of the tunnel and the best way to get there is for everybody to keep abiding by the rules and then as we release things, we need to move at that pace, because that is what we expect to be the safe way to get out of this as fast as we can as we rollout the vaccine.”

The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has released papers which show how modelling predicts a big rise in cases and deaths if restrictions lift too quickly, even with the continued success of the vaccine programme.

“Relaxation of a significant number of restrictions over three months starting from the beginning of April could lead to hospital occupancy higher than the January peak, whereas relaxation over nine months would result in a much smaller peak,” the paper states.

Mr Johnson has accepted that scientific modelling suggested that lifting measures will increase Covid-19 cases and ultimately deaths, but said restrictions cannot continue indefinitely.

Summarising what the papers show, the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told a Downing Street press conference: “The modelling lays out a series of scenarios. None of them are the precise ones which the Government ultimately decided to go for, but they lie between those options and that’s the point of the modelling to lay out scenarios, not to point to a single answer.”

He added: “Vaccines are predicted – as you’d expect and hope – to make a big difference.

“But even with high vaccine levels, and indeed quite high vaccine coverage, it’s important to remember that a large number of people in the population remain unprotected.”

A shopper wearing a face mask walks through London

/ AFP via Getty Images

Mr Johnson’s current plan will see a five-week gap between each phase to allow for a gradual lifting of the restrictions, a move Mr Hancock described as “vital” to allow ministers to see the impact of the eased restrictions.

A further easing will take place on March 29, when the school Easter holidays begin, with larger groups of up to six people or two households allowed to gather in parks and gardens.

What are the four stages of easing coronavirus restrictions?

But progressing along the schedule will depend on meeting four tests: the success of the vaccine rollout, evidence of vaccine efficacy, an assessment of new variants, and keeping infection rates below a level that could put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.

Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference: “Thanks to the vaccinations there is light ahead, leading us to a spring and a summer, which I think will be seasons of hope, looking and feeling incomparably better for us all.”

It came as the Government launched a review looking at the use of “Covid status” certificates, which could be used by people to demonstrate they had received a jab or a negative coronavirus test in order to enter venues, or allow firms to reduce restrictions as a result of the status of their customers.

But Mr Johnson acknowledged there are “clearly some quite complex issues, some ethical issues” including discrimination surrounding them.

International travel rules will also be reviewed, with May 17 targeted as the earliest possible date for a foreign holiday.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Rishi Sunak is under pressure to extend measures such as the furlough scheme, which is due to expire at the end of April, when he delivers his Budget on March 3.

Mr Johnson indicated that the continued restrictions on some businesses will lead to an extension in taxpayer-funded support schemes, saying: “We will not pull the rug out.”

People play with a football as they enjoy the sunny weather in Shoreditch Park in London

/ AFP via Getty Images

But Conservative MP Steve Baker, the deputy chair of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory lockdown-sceptics, said the “pace of change will be a hammer blow” to industries such as aviation, hospitality and the arts.

And Sir Graham Brady, the influential chairman of the 1922 committee of Tories, argued the “massive lurch” towards state power during lockdown “must be reversed and it must never happen again”.

“We should recognise that these aren’t freedoms that belong to the state, they are freedoms we were lucky enough to be born with. The Government has taken our freedoms away and they should be restored as quickly as can safely be done,” he wrote in the Daily Telegraph.

MP Mark Harper told LBC that delays to lifting restrictions were due to the Government “understating” the performance of the vaccine, based on models it had looked at.

The Forest of Dean MP said: “The biggest flaw is they assume a very low uptake of the vaccine. We know the uptake of the vaccine is over 90 per cent in the top groups that have been vaccinated, above 95 per cent, they’ve assumed 15 per cent of the population don’t take the vaccine.

Boris Johnson hopes his roadmap will make lives ‘incomparably better’

/ Getty Images

“I have two problems with that, one is that isn’t realistic, that’s not what’s happening, but secondly there is a real question about whether the rest of the country should be held back for two months because some people choose not to take the vaccine.”

He added: “The Government seems to have looked at some models with dodgy assumptions and have effectively delayed opening the country by two months.”

The road map will be put to a Commons vote before the House rises for Easter in late March.

In Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster has promised a “decision-making framework” on how the executive plans to exit lockdown will be published on March 1, with the First Minister saying the dates for the phased reopening schools could be revisited.

Additional reporting by PA Media.

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Yukon man shares delight in Covid vaccine by bhangra dancing on frozen lake in Canada

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/world/canada-yukon-man-covid-vaccine-bhangra-dancing-lake-b921962.html

Yukon man shares delight in Covid vaccine by bhangra dancing on frozen lake in Canada
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dancer from Canada went viral after he celebrated receiving a coronavirus vaccine by bhangra dancing on a frozen lake.

Gurdeep Pandher moved to the Yukon in northwest Canada 10 years ago and lives in a wilderness cabin just outside of Whitehorse.

The city is the first capital in Canada to offer vaccines to everyone aged 18 and older.

In an uplifting video, Mr Pandher spread joy through the traditional Indian dance.

The 43-year-old was given his first vaccine dose on Monday, which he said “went wonderfully”.

“It was easy I did not even feel it, and even after the vaccine, I felt okay,” he told the PA news agency.

“You know sometimes we see in social media, or other platforms, people are concerned about the vaccine. but I did not feel anything like that. And then I went to a frozen lake in the Yukon to dance bhangra.

“It was an awesome experience, just to celebrate it and share the joy with the world.”

Despite the cold surroundings in Yukon, Mr Pandher said the high energy movements kept him warm.

He has been sharing videos of himself dancing around the frozen Yukon to try and bring hope and happiness during the pandemic.

“I understand that it’s not easy to be positive these days when we have a lot of pressures we have this global pandemic going on,” he said.

<p>Gurdeep Pandher received his first dose of a Covid jab on Monday</p>

Gurdeep Pandher received his first dose of a Covid jab on Monday

/ PA

“It is not easy, and people have really been suffering, but I feel that still, we can find joy if we want to if we think that tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, things will be better things.

“We are going through a long dark night but there will be a beautiful sunrise eventually, that hope can bring the joy, and just looking forward to that beautiful sunrise can create positivity and it’s important to be positive. It doesn’t matter how tough, or hard our life is.”

Additional reporting by PA Media.

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Rishi Sunak dismisses claims Budget snubbed public sector workers as unions slam ‘insulting’ pay freeze

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/rishi-sunak-budget-public-sector-pay-b922042.html

Rishi Sunak dismisses claims Budget snubbed public sector workers as unions slam ‘insulting’ pay freeze

The Chancellor said that while there had been a “pause” in public-sector pay increases outside the NHS, the majority in the public sector would still see their pay increase next year.

Speaking at a post-Budget Downing Street press conference, Mr Sunak defended the move after union leaders said his silence on pay for public sector workers was “deafening” and dismissed his Budget as “an insult” for not pledging pay rises.

 Chancellor Rishi Sunak holds a press conference after delivering his Budget
Chancellor Rishi Sunak holds a press conference after delivering his Budget / Getty Images

Mr Sunak said: “Given that and given the very obviously difficult fiscal situation that we face, I thought for those reasons, and also to try to protect those public-sector jobs, it was reasonable to take a more targeted approach to public-sector pay this year.”

But Rehana Azam, national officer of the GMB union, said the Chancellor’s Budget on Wednesday was an “insult” to public sector workers.

“When it comes down to it, the big ‘love-in’ and ‘immense praise’ has amounted to nothing for the workers that carried us through the pandemic. Nor has he changed the super-spreader policy of poverty sick pay that prevents people from self-isolating.

“This Budget is an insult to the millions of NHS, schools, care, local government workers who have seen us through this crisis.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “After a year of key workers going above and beyond, it’s an insult that the Chancellor announced no new support for our hard-pressed NHS or public services and no guarantee of a decent pay rise for all our public sector key workers.”

Budget round-up: The key points

The Chancellor said the measures he had announced were benefiting people in “every corner” of the country, referring to the sites for the eight freeports in England which were revealed as part of the Budget.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “In this time of crisis, workers and communities are desperate for action on a scale that meets this enormous moment and takes us to a fairer future.

“Instead, the Chancellor plundered his back catalogue to pull out a sketchy policy, a return of freeports, a failed experiment of the last decades where the only winners are tax avoiders and bad bosses.

“Freeports are sinkholes, draining decent jobs and wages away from our communities.”

Meanwhile Dame Donna Kinnair, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The fact the Chancellor has not set aside money in this Budget for a significant pay rise for nursing staff is a worrying sign of his intention to give a very low pay award this summer.

“Nursing staff are worse off than they were a decade ago. If that pay rise is low, it won’t be enough to stave off a potential exodus of exhausted NHS nursing staff at the end of the pandemic – and NHS services will find safe patient care even harder to deliver.”

Rishi Sunak poses with the Budget Box

/ AFP via Getty Images

Mr Sunak’s admitted to eye-watering borrowing of nearly £600 billion over just two years. In a Budget shaped by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Chancellor gave away another £65 billion in lifelines to struggling companies, hospitality venues and workers.

But he also answered the burning question of how and when the massive sums spent will start to be repaid. “It is going to be the work of many governments, over many decades, to pay it back,” answered the Chancellor.

His second Budget package gave with one hand – extending the £20 uplift in Universal Credit, along with furloughing and the stamp duty holiday – all funded with borrowing of £600 billion over two years.

He shocked business leaders with a jump in Corporation Tax from 19p to 25p in the Pound in 2023, raising a projected £16 billion a year from profits and killing off the notion of Brexit Britain as a low-tax Singapore-style offshore haven.

Budget 2021: Rishi Sunak announced rise in income and corporate tax

For ordinary taxpayers, Mr Sunak announced a four-year freeze in the tax-free personal allowance and the 40p higher rate tax threshold, which will suck millions of people into paying more tax.

To comply with the Conservative election manifesto, there will be no hike in tax rates and a one-off rise in the thresholds this year.

The Chancellor was given a warm but quiet cheer from Tory MPs when he rose in a Commons after delivering the Budget. He pledged: “We will continue doing whatever it takes to support the British people and businesses through this moment of crisis.

“Second, once we are on the way to recovery, we will need to begin fixing the public finances – and I want to be honest today about our plans to do that. And, third, in today’s Budget we begin the work of building our future economy.”

But in his response, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused him of just “a quick-fix, papering over the cracks”.

Sir Keir went on: “The party opposite spent a decade weakening the foundations of our economy, now they pretend they can rebuild it.”

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Duke of Edinburgh is ‘slightly improving’ in hospital, Camilla says

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/prince-philip-duke-improving-hospital-camilla-b921980.html

Duke of Edinburgh is ‘slightly improving’ in hospital, Camilla says
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he Duke of Edinburgh is “slightly improving” but he “hurts at moments”, the Duchess of Cornwall has said.

On a visit to south London, Camilla said of her 99-year-old father-in-law: “We keep our fingers crossed.”

Philip, the nation’s longest-serving consort, has spent 15 nights in hospital – his longest ever stay.

He is undergoing testing for a pre-existing heart condition and treatment for an infection after being moved by ambulance to St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the City of London on Monday.

The hospital move heightened concerns for the duke, who will turn 100 in June.

Camilla’s comments were reported by broadcasters covering her engagement on Wednesday morning at a community vaccination centre in Croydon.

Philip was said to be “comfortable” after his arrival at St Bartholomew’s, with Buckingham Palace saying “doctors will continue to treat him for an infection, as well as undertake testing and observation for a pre-existing heart condition”.

The Palace added that the duke was responding to treatment, but was expected to remain in hospital until at least the end of the week.

<p>The Duchess of Cornwall speaks with staff during a visit to the Community Vaccination Centre at St Paul's Church in Croydon</p>

The Duchess of Cornwall speaks with staff during a visit to the Community Vaccination Centre at St Paul’s Church in Croydon

/ Getty Images

He was initially admitted to the private King Edward VII’s Hospital on February 16 as a precautionary measure after feeling unwell.

Four days later, he was visited by his eldest son the Prince of Wales, who made a 200-mile round trip and stayed for around 30 minutes.

Philip has spent most of lockdown residing at Windsor Castle with the Queen for their safety, alongside a reduced household of staff dubbed HMS Bubble.

The Queen and the duke, who have been married for 73 years, received their first Covid-19 jabs in January.

Meanwhile, the Duchess of Cornwall said she suffered no side effects from her Covid-19 jab, and it was painless even though she dislikes needles.

Camilla, who had her first coronavirus jab last month, like the Prince of Wales, spoke to NHS staff, administrators and volunteer marshals, and met members of the public receiving their injections.

The duchess, who was wearing a medical face mask and a pink tweed Anna Valentine coat, chatted to Dr Agnelo Fernandes, a GP leading the vaccination process, about her own vaccination.

“No side effects and it didn’t hurt and I’m not a lover of needles,” Camilla remarked.

She joked to staff: “Have you had anyone sitting down and then legging it out of the room yet? No? Good.”

The duchess asked: “Are you having a lot of numbers coming in? What are your main problems?”

Told misinformation was an obstacle, Camilla replied: “Social media is an issue, isn’t it?

“The misinformation put out there – it just helps talking to your friends and colleagues about how easy it was.

“It may encourage them. It’s good to see the community leading by example.”

“We have a high degree of hesitancy as well. But despite that we have been doing really well.”

He said they were dealing with a rate of about 30% of people who did not want to take the vaccine.

“We are working on different ways of combating this, with community leaders and faith leaders, giving them information to make an informed choice,” Dr Fernandes added.

“There is so much disinformation and conspiracy theories. I am on several BAME groups and what is out there, particularly on social media, is just shocking.”

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What did Rishi Sunak say in his Budget 2021? Key points explained

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/budget-rishi-sunak-chancellor-key-points-b921991.html

What did Rishi Sunak say in his Budget 2021? Key points explained
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ishi Sunak has set out plans to freeze income tax thresholds and increase corporation tax as he begins the process of repairing the nation’s finances following the coronavirus crisis.

The Chancellor also used his Budget to set out a £65 billion spending package this year and next year to support the economy as it recovers from the pandemic.

Here are the key points from his 51-minute House of Commons address:

The economy

– The Chancellor said coronavirus has caused one of the “largest, most comprehensive and sustained economic shocks this country has ever faced”.

– Borrowing is forecast to be £234 billion next year – 10.3% of gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the size of the economy – but will fall to 4.5% of GDP in 2022-23, 3.5% in 2023-24, then 2.9% and 2.8% in the following two years.

– The measures to support the economy amounted to £65 billion over this year and next, taking the total Government support to £407 billion over that period, Mr Sunak said.

<p> Rates of income tax, national insurance and VAT kept at the same level but personal tax thresholds will be frozen from April 2026.</p>

Rates of income tax, national insurance and VAT kept at the same level but personal tax thresholds will be frozen from April 2026.

/ PRU/AFP via Getty Images

Coronavirus support

– The furlough scheme will be extended to the end of September, as will support for the self-employed.

– The Universal Credit uplift of £20 a week will continue for a further six months, well beyond the end of this national lockdown.

– A new restart grant will start in April to help businesses reopen, with £5 billion of funding.

– The Chancellor confirmed an additional £1.6 billion for the coronavirus vaccine rollout and to “improve future preparedness”.

– The business rates holiday for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will continue until the end of June, and will be discounted by two thirds for the remaining nine months of the year.

– The 5% reduced rate of VAT for the tourism and hospitality sector will be extended for six months to the end of September, with an interim rate of 12.5% for another six months after that.

– The stamp duty cut will continue until the end of June, with the nil rate band set at £250,000 – double its standard level – until the end of September.

A new restart grant will start in April to help businesses reopen, with £5 billion of funding.

/ AFP via Getty Images

Taxation

– The rate of corporation tax, paid on company profits, will increase to 25% in April 2023 – but small businesses with profits of £50,000 or less will continue to be taxed at 19%.

– There will be a “super deduction” for companies when they invest, reducing their tax bill by 130% of the cost for the next two years.

– Rates of income tax, national insurance and VAT kept at the same level but personal tax thresholds will be frozen from April 2026.

Other announcements

– The minimum wage will increase to £8.91 an hour from April.

– On apprenticeships, the Government is to double the incentive payments given to businesses to £3,000 for all new hires, of any age.

– All alcohol duties are frozen for the second year in a row and the planned increase in fuel duty is also cancelled.

– A “mortgage guarantee” was announced, with lenders who provide mortgages to homebuyers who can only afford a 5% deposit benefitting from a Government guarantee on those mortgages.

– The UK Infrastructure Bank will be located in Leeds, while the Treasury is to establish a new economic campus in Darlington, the Chancellor revealed.

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Budget 2021: Rishi Sunak announces income and corporation tax hikes amid record borrowing of nearly £600bn

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/rishi-sunak-budget-2021-latest-news-updates-reaction-b921967.html

Budget 2021: Rishi Sunak announces income and corporation tax hikes amid record borrowing of nearly £600bn
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ishi Sunak announced tax raids on families and big business today – after admitting to eye-watering borrowing of nearly £600 billion over just two years.

But he also answered the burning question of how and when the massive sums spent will start to be repaid. “It is going to be the work of many governments, over many decades, to pay it back,” answered the Chancellor.

His second Budget package gave with one hand – extending the £20 uplift in Universal Credit, along with furloughing and the stamp duty holiday – all funded with eye-watering borrowing of £600 billion over two years.

But then it started clawing back money with the other hand, shocking business leaders with a jump in Corporation Tax from 19p to 25p in the Pound in 2023, raising a projected £16 billion a year from profits and killing off the notion of Brexit Britain as a low-tax Singapore-style offshore haven.

For ordinary taxpayers, Mr Sunak took a more stealthy approach to increasing his tax take, announcing a four-year freeze in the tax-free personal allowance and the 40p higher rate tax threshold, which will suck millions of people into paying more tax.  To comply with the Conservative election manifesto, there will be no hike in tax rates and a one-off rise in the thresholds this year.

The Chancellor was given a warm but quiet cheer from Tory MPs when he rose in a Commons that was relatively quiet due to social distancing.

He pledged: “We will continue doing whatever it takes to support the British people and businesses through this moment of crisis.

“Second, once we are on the way to recovery, we will need to begin fixing the public finances – and I want to be honest today about our plans to do that.

“And, third, in today’s Budget we begin the work of building our future economy.”

Mr Sunak’s announcements were overshadowed and shaped by new figures spelling out the jaw-dropping cost to Covid-19 to the public finances.

The Government will borrow £355 billion this year and £243 billion next year, and Mr Sunak warned it will take “decades” to repay.

Overall British taxation levels will rise to the highest levels seen since Roy Jenkins was Chancellor of a Labour government in the 1960s.

“The amount we’ve borrowed is only comparable with the amount we borrowed during the two world wars,” he said. “It is going to be the work of many governments, over many decades, to pay it back.”

The Government has spent an astonishing £352 billion on help so far, rising to £407 billion after the new measures, he said.

“Coronavirus has caused one of the largest, most comprehensive and sustained economic shocks this country has ever faced,” he told MPs.

“And, by any objective analysis, this Government has delivered one of the largest, most comprehensive and sustained responses this country has ever seen.”

Sunak: Stamp duty cut to continue until end of June

* Help for families and firms:  Mr Sunak began his speech by drawing attention to the Covid rescue measures. “I said I would do whatever it takes; I have done; and I will do,” he said. He then extended the stamp duty holiday as well as furloughing and the £20 Universal Credit boost until the end of September, meaning help will continue after the June 21 date when the economy is due to reopen in the roadmap.  He also revealed extra help for 600,000 self-employed people, who will get grants of up to £7,500.

* Income tax:  Direct taxation will rise in a series of stealth taxes, starting with a freeze on thresholds at which people start paying the basic and higher rates of income tax. These will rise to £12,570 and £50,270, but then stay at that level until 2026.  It means millions will pay more tax without rates having to go up. “We are not hiding it,” said Mr Sunak, who called it “progressive and fair”.  In another stealth raid, he froze inheritance tax thresholds and the pensions lifetime allowance, meaning people who save more could be liable to penal charges.

* Corporation tax: The hike in corporation tax, paid on the profits of major firms, was a surprise as most experts had expected a gradual rise.  Small businesses will be exempt from it. One top economist expressed shock at the “risky” scale of the corporation rise hike, from 19p to 25p.  “That’s a huge increase in rate of corporation tax,” tweeted Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. “Right at top end of expectations. Extraordinary reversal of longstanding policy. Risky.”

Keir Starmer: ‘I’m sure this Budget will look better on Instagram’

*  Investment:  A series of incentives for investment were promised to sweeten the tax pill for business.  More generous tax relief will go to firms that invest in new plant, in what the Chancellor called a “pro-business tax regime”, He told MPs: “While many businesses are struggling, others have been able to build up significant cash reserves. We need to unlock that investment, we need an investment-led recovery.”  Under a “super deduction”, for the next two years companies can reduce their tax bill by investing. The OBR believed it could boost business investment by 10 per cent, or around £20 billion extra per year, Mr Sunak said.

* Freeports:  Eight new English Freeports, which will boost jobs with tax advantages, will be based in East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe & Harwich, Humber, Liverpool City Region, Plymouth, Solent, Thames and Teesside.

* £5 billion restart fund for cash grants of up to £18,000 for hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym businesses.

* Extension of the Film & TV Production Restart scheme in the UK, with an additional £300 million to support theatres, museums and other cultural organisations to re-open.

* Extension to the VAT cut to five per cent for hospitality, accommodation and attractions across the UK until the end of September, followed by a 12.5 per cent rate for a further six months until 31 March 2022.

* Business rate holidays at 100 per cent for eligible firms in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors continue until June and then being scaled back for those that can re-open.

* In a landmark reform, Mr Sunak also announced that the Bank of England would be given a new role in ensuring the UK meets the “net zero” target by 2050.

Having unveiled a string of measures, the Chancellor added:  “Underpinning all of this will be an updated monetary policy remit for the Bank of England. It reaffirms their 2% inflation target. But now, it will also reflect the importance of environmental sustainability and the transition to net zero.”

Britain is hosting the COP26 environmental summit in Glasgow in the autumn, amid warnings that the world is running out of time to tackle global warming

750,000 eligible businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors in England will benefit from business rates relief.

Chancellor confirms extension of furlough scheme

* Extending the apprenticeship hiring scheme to September 2021, with an increase of payment to £3,000

* An extra £19 million to tackle domestic abuse in England and Wales, with more support for homeless women and a programme to deter re-offending.

Spelling out his vision of the future, Mr Sunak rhapsodised to MPs: “I see innovative, fast-growing businesses hiring local people into decent, well-paid, green jobs. I see people designing, manufacturing and exporting incredible new products and services. I see people putting down roots in places they are proud to call home. I see a people optimistic and ambitious for their future. That, Madam Deputy Speaker, is the future economy of this country.”

Forecasts by the OBR show the economy will grow more slowly this year than hoped – but then bounce back in 2022 with bumper growth of over seven per cent.

Mr Sunak released a picture of himself raising his scarlet box with Treasury ministers socially distanced down the staircase at No 11.

After his speech, he was due to hold a rare Budget Day news conference at 10 Downing Street, before being grilled again by Conservative MPs in private.

Earlier the Chancellor briefed the full Cabinet on his package, which he called “Protecting the jobs and livelihoods of the British people”.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Chancellor said that, while we face challenging times, we will rise to that challenge and we can be optimistic about the recovery.

“He said the Budget will begin the work of building our future economy.”

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