Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled a £30bn package to help the economy get through the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr Sunak announced a £30bn stimulus package to ease the impact of the virus, including cutting small business rates to zero this year. He pledged a £500m boost for self-employed workers hit by the outbreak – but stopped short of demands to extend statutory sick pay to all.
It comes as junior health minister Nadine Dorries revealed she tested positive for Covid-19 after falling ill on Friday.
He is abolishing business rates for many firms in England, extending sick pay and boosting NHS funding.
He warned of a significant but temporary disruption to the UK economy but vowed: “We will get through this together.”
The Bank of England announced an emergency cut in interest rates just ahead of the Budget on Wednesday.
Mr Sunak, who was promoted to chancellor just four weeks ago after Sajid Javid quit the government, has had to hastily re-write the government’s financial plans to deal with coronavirus.
“We are doing everything we can to keep this country and our people healthy and financially secure,” he told MPs.
Corbyn says Budget is admission of austerity failure
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he “welcomed” many of the measures to “head off the impact” of coronavirus.
But he said the extra money for the NHS was “too little, too late” and the UK was going into the crisis with its public services “on their knees” after years of Conservative cuts.
He says the coronavirus outbreak will only be overcome due to the work and dedication for the NHS. “This is a Budget that is an admission of failure – the admission austerity was a failure. Today’s measures go nowhere near to reversing the damage
The Labour leader said the Conservative government have starved the country of infrastructure in the previous decade.
Corbyn said across the NHS there were 100,000 staff vacancies and public health budgets had been “slashed” by £1bn in recent years.
He said: “Public health is based on the principle that prevention is better than cure, but this Government is providing money only after a serious outbreak is under way.”
The measures put in place to mitigate the effect of the coronavirus outbreak include:
- Statutory sick pay for “all those who are advised to self-isolate” even if they have not displayed symptoms
- Business rates for shops, cinemas, restaurants and music venues in England with a rateable value below £51,000 suspended for a year
- A £500m “hardship fund” to be given to local authorities to help vulnerable people in their areas
- “Fiscal loosening” of £18bn to support the economy this year, taking the total fiscal stimulus to £30bn
- A “temporary coronavirus business interruption loan scheme” for banks to offer loans of up to £1.2m to support small and medium-sized businesses
- The government will meet costs for businesses with fewer than 250 employees of providing statutory sick pay to those off work “due to coronavirus”
- Those on in-work benefits who get ill will be able to “claim from day one instead of day eight”.
The number of coronavirus cases in the UK reached 456 on Wednesday, with a sixth person confirmed to have died after contracting the virus.