PMQ: Boris Johnson faced questions on Coronavirus and the impact on the UK economy

Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer - Prime Minister: Engagements (15 Jul 2020)
Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer - Prime Minister: Engagements (15 Jul 2020)

Questioned by Keir Starmer (Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party)

Over the past few months, we have supported many of the economic measures announced by the Government, but the decision last week not to provide sector-specific support to those most at risk could end up costing thousands of jobs. One of the sectors, aviation, has already seen huge redundancies: BA has announced 12,000 redundancies; Virgin 3,000; and easyJet 1,900. If the Government’s priority really is to protect jobs, why did the Chancellor not bring forward sector-specific deals that could have done precisely that?

Answered by Boris Johnson (The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party)

No one should underestimate the scale of the challenge that this country faces. That is why the Chancellor has brought forward a range of measures, which, by the way, the right hon. and learned Gentleman supported last week. They include the job retention bonus and the kick-starter programme for young people. We are also doing a huge amount to support the aviation sector. One of the companies that he mentions, Virgin, has now come out of the Birch process after extremely difficult, but in the end productive conversations. That is the work of this Government: getting on, helping companies through it and helping our people through it. If I may say so, Mr Speaker, the right hon. and learned Gentleman has to work out whether he will support or oppose the Government’s programme to get people back into work. Last week, the shadow Chancellor said here in this House of Commons that she supported our programme. This week, he says that he opposes it. Which is it?

Questioned by Keir Starmer (Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party)

This is just such rhetorical nonsense. It is perfectly proper and right for the Opposition to set out the parts of the package that we support the Government on and to highlight where there are problems. The problem with the Prime Minister’s dismissal of this is that, since the Chancellor set this out last week, around 10,000 people have lost their jobs. The Prime Minister should focus on them, not the rhetoric. The Office for Budget Responsibility yesterday projected 3.5 million unemployed next year.

I want to press the Prime Minister further on the situation at BA, which is a huge employer and the national flag carrier. Alongside the 12,000 redundancies already announced, BA is trying to force through the rehiring of the remaining 30,000 workers on worse terms and conditions. That is totally unacceptable and it is a warning shot to millions of other working people. The Prime Minister sent an email to BA staff in which he said: “I have already made it clear that firms should not be using furlough to cynically keep people on their books and then remove them or change their terms and conditions.” That was on 2 June. It is now six weeks on. Will the Prime Minister now personally intervene and make it clear that actions such as those at BA cannot be allowed to stand without consequences for landing slots?

Answered by Boris Johnson (The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party)

We have been absolutely clear that we want our great companies across the country to support their workers and keep them in employment where they possibly can. I have made that point clear on the Floor of the House just in the past couple of weeks. Let us be absolutely clear: British Airways and many other companies are in severe difficulties at the moment, and we cannot, I am afraid, simply with a magic wand ensure that every single job that was being done before the crisis is retained after the crisis. What we can do—and what we are doing—is encourage companies to keep their workers on with the job retention scheme and the job retention bonus, as well as a massive £600 billion investment programme in this country to build, build, build and create jobs, jobs, jobs. That is what we are doing.

Questioned by Keir Starmer (Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party)

The Prime Minister knows exactly what I am talking about: it is the rehiring of 30,000 people at BA on worse terms and conditions, and he should call it out.

Yesterday, the Government’s expert advisory group published a report on the challenges this autumn and winter. It was asked to do so by the Government Office for Science. The report assessed the reasonable worst-case scenario for this autumn and winter, including a second covid spike and seasonal flu, and it set out strong recommended actions to mitigate the risks. The report was clear: July and August must be a period of intense preparation—i.e., now. Could the Prime Minister make it clear that he intends to implement the recommended actions in the report in full and at speed?

Answered by Boris Johnson (The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party)

Not only are we getting on with implementing the preparations for a potential new spike but the right hon. and learned Gentleman will know that the Government are engaged in record investments in the NHS of £34 billion. The House may not realise that, just in the last year that the Government have been in office, there are now 12,000 more nurses in the NHS and 6,000 more doctors. It was thanks to their hard work, and the hard work of the entire NHS, that we were able to prevent our health service from being overwhelmed this spring. We will take steps to ensure that it is not overwhelmed this winter either.

Questioned by Keir Starmer (Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party)

That is the whole point of this report, which sets out the reasonable worst-case scenario and tells the Government what they need to do about it, so I am surprised that the Prime Minister is not committing to fully implementing it. It is vital that the Government learn the lessons from the mistakes that have been made and act now to save lives for the future. One of the key recommendations in the report, commissioned by the Government Office for Science, is that testing and tracing capacity should be significantly expanded to cope with increased demands over the winter. The reality is that trace and track is not working as promised, as it stands today, and the report makes it clear that it needs to be significantly expanded to cope with the risks of autumn and winter. What assurance can the Prime Minister give that the system will be fit for both purposes in the timeframe envisaged in the report—i.e., by this September?

Answered by Boris Johnson (The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party)

Once again, the right hon. and learned Gentleman attacks the test and trace operation, which is working at absolutely unprecedented scale: 144,000 people across the country have now agreed to self-isolate to stop the spread of the virus. He keeps saying that the test and trace operation is failing to contact enough people and failing to get enough people to self-isolate. Actually, it is doing fantastic work: 70% or 80% of contacts are found, and it is getting through to the vast majority of people who have the disease. I can certainly give the House the assurance that our test and trace system is as good as, or better than, any other system anywhere in the world—and yes, it will play a vital part in ensuring that we do not have a second spike this winter. Instead of knocking the confidence of the country in the test and trace system, now is the time for him to return to his previous script and build it up—that is what he needs to do.

Questioned by Keir Starmer (Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party)

The problem with the Prime Minister quoting the 70% of people who are contacted and asked to self-isolate is that that has gone down. It was 90% just a few weeks ago and every week it has gone down, so I would not quote the latest figure, looking at the trend. But I have to ask, in the light of the last few questions: has the Prime Minister actually read this report that sets out the reasonable worst-case scenario and tells the Government what they need to do about it in the next six weeks? Has he read it?

Answered by Boris Johnson (The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party)

I am of course aware of the report and we are of course taking every reasonable step to prepare this country for a second spike. I may say to the right hon. Gentleman that it is up to him, really, to get behind what the Government are doing or not. He has previously supported our plan. He has previously come to this House and said that he supports our measures. He now says, I think, that he does not support them. I think what he needs to do is build up the confidence of the people of this country cautiously to get back to work and cautiously to restart our economy, which is what we are trying to do, instead of endlessly knocking the confidence of the people of this country: knocking their confidence in test and trace, knocking their confidence in the safety of our schools and knocking our confidence in our transport network. Now is the time for him to decide whether he backs the Government or not.

Questioned by Keir Starmer (Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party)

It is perfectly possible to support track and trace and to point out the problems. Standing up every week saying, “It’s a stunning success” is kidding no one. That is not giving people confidence in the system. They would like a Prime Minister who stands up and says, “There are problems and this is what I am going to do about them,” not this rhetoric about “stunning success” when it is obviously not true.

This afternoon, Prime Minister, I am meeting the families of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, a group of hundreds of families who have lost loved ones. They say this:

“We won’t let the deaths of our loved ones be in vain. And we won’t allow the Government to risk a second wave of deaths without learning from their mistakes.”

They will be listening to the Prime Minister’s answers today, so what would the Prime Minister like to say to them?

Answered by Boris Johnson (The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party)

I join with, I think, every Member of the House in mourning the loss of everybody who has died in this epidemic. I can assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and through him the victims and their families, that we will do absolutely everything in our power to prevent a second spike in this epidemic. That is why we are taking the steps that we are. That is why we have set up, as I say, an unprecedented test and trace operation. That is why we are investing massively in our NHS and our frontline staff, as I say, in the last year, recruiting 12,000 more nurses, as part of a programme to recruit 50,000 more, and preparing our NHS for winter. We will do absolutely everything we can to protect our country and to stop a second spike.

What the right hon. and learned Gentleman has to decide is whether he wants to back that programme or not. One day he says it is safe to go back to school. The next day he is taking the line of the unions. One day they are supporting our economic programme. The next day they are saying our stamp duty cut is an unacceptable bung. One day they are saying they accept the result of the Brexit referendum. The next day, today, they are going to tell their troops to do the exact opposite. He needs to make up his mind which brief he is going to take today. At the moment, it looks like he has got more briefs than Calvin Klein. We are getting on with delivering on our agenda for the country, getting this country through this pandemic and taking it forward.

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PMQ: Ian Blackford on unemployment and extending furlough scheme

Boris Johnson and Ian Blackford - Prime Minister: Engagements (8 Jul 2020)
Boris Johnson and Ian Blackford - Prime Minister: Engagements (8 Jul 2020)

Prime Minister’s Questions: 8 July 2020

Questioned By Ian Blackford SNP Westminster Leader

Just this week, we have seen Spain look to extend its furlough scheme into 2021. Research has shown that prematurely ending the job retention scheme risks higher unemployment and weaker productivity, with a potential loss of up to £50 billion to GDP. The Resolution Foundation is calling for £3 billion to £5 billion to be spent on extending furlough payments for the hardest-hit sectors, and the TUC is warning of the effect that ending the furlough scheme early will have on people who are shielding and in difficulties. This is about not throwing away the benefits that we have accrued. The Prime Minister seems intent on sinking the lifeboat that has been keeping so many people afloat. If the Prime Minister will not extend the furlough scheme, will he give Scotland the powers so that we can do it ourselves?

Answered By Boris Johnson The Prime Minister (Leader of the Conservative Party)

I think I have answered the right hon. Gentleman’s question already. I believe it is absolutely essential that we invest in our people and protect them from the effects of this epidemic, as we have done at huge expenditure, quite rightly, but it is also essential that we get the economy moving, including in Scotland. I hope that he supports that objective as well.

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PMQ: Keir Starmer clash with Boris Johnson over blaming care home workers

Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer - Prime Minister: Engagements (8 Jul 2020)
Boris Johnson and Sir Keir Starmer - Prime Minister: Engagements (8 Jul 2020)

Prime Minister’s Questions: 8 July 2020

Sir Keir Starmer Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition (Leader of the Labour Party)

On Monday, when asked why care home deaths had been so high, the Prime Minister said that

“too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have.”

That has caused huge offence to frontline care workers. It has now been 48 hours. Will the Prime Minister apologise to care workers?

Boris Johnson The Prime Minister (Leader of the Conservative Party)

The last thing I wanted to do was to blame careworkers for what has happened, or for any of them to think that I was blaming them, because they have worked incredibly hard throughout this crisis, looking after some of the most vulnerable people in our country and doing an outstanding job, and as the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows, tragically, 257 of them have lost their lives. When it comes to taking blame, I take full responsibility for what has happened. But the one thing that nobody knew early on during this pandemic was that the virus was being passed asymptomatically from person to person in the way that it is, and that is why the guidance and the procedures changed. It is thanks to the hard work of careworkers that we have now got incidents and outbreaks down in our care homes to the lowest level since the crisis began. That is thanks to our careworkers and I pay tribute to them.

Sir Keir Starmer Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition (Leader of the Labour Party)

That is not an apology, and it just will not wash. The Prime Minister said that

“too many care homes didn’t really follow the procedures in the way that they could have”.

It was clear what he was saying. The Prime Minister must understand just how raw this is for many people on the frontline and for those who have lost loved ones. I quote Mark Adams, who runs a social care charity, who spoke yesterday. He said:

“You’ve got 1.6 million social care workers going into work to protect our parents, our grandparents, our children, putting their own health and potentially lives at risk. And then to get the most senior man in the country turning round and blaming them on what has been an absolute travesty of leadership from the Government, I just think it is appalling.”

Those are his words. I ask the Prime Minister again: will he apologise to careworkers? Yes or no?

Boris Johnson The Prime Minister (Leader of the Conservative Party)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman keeps saying that I blamed or tried to blame care workers, and that is simply not the case. The reality is that we now know things about the way the coronavirus is passed from person to person without symptoms that we just did not know. That is why we instituted the care home action plan on 15 April. That is why we changed the procedures. Perhaps he did know that it was being transmitted asymptomatically—I did not hear it at the time. Perhaps Captain Hindsight would like to tell us that he knew that it was being transmitted asymptomatically. Of course it was necessary to change our procedures. I want to thank our care workers for what they have done, and this Government will continue to invest massively in our care homes and in our care workers. By the way, it is this Government, as I said just now, that put up the living wage by record amounts, and that is something that we can do directly to help every care worker in the country.

Sir Keir Starmer Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition (Leader of the Labour Party)

By refusing to apologise, the Prime Minister rubs salt into the wounds of the very people that he stood at his front door and clapped. The Prime Minister and the Health Secretary must be the only people left in the country who think that they put a “protective ring” around care homes. Those on the frontline know that that was not the case. I quote one care home manager from ITN News yesterday. She said this:

“I’m absolutely livid at the fact that he says we didn’t follow the procedures. Because the care assistants, the nurses, everyone in the care home, have worked so hard. And then he’s got the audacity to blame us.”

Those are her words. What would the Prime Minister like to say to that care home manager?

Boris Johnson The Prime Minister (Leader of the Conservative Party)

What I would like to say to the lady in question, and indeed to every care home worker in the country, is that this Government appreciate the incredible work that they have done, and we thank them for the incredible work they have done. Let me say further that we will invest in our care homes and we will reform the care home sector. I hope, by the way, that we will do it on the basis of cross-party consensus and get a lasting solution to the problems in our care homes and the difficulties many people face in funding the cost of their old age. That is what we want to do. That is what this Government have pledged to do after 30 years of inaction, and I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will join us in doing it.

Sir Keir Starmer Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition (Leader of the Labour Party)

I am glad to hear it. I gently point out that his Government have been in power for 10 years, with no plan and no White Paper. Of course we will join in plans for reforming social care, but 10 years have been wasted. The reality is that more than 19,000 care home residents have died from covid-19. It is a far higher number when we include excess deaths. Overall, around one in 20 care home residents are estimated to have died from the virus. One in 20—it is chilling. These are extraordinary numbers, yet the Prime Minister has consistently ducked responsibility for this. Will he accept that it is not care workers who are to blame; it is his Government?

Boris Johnson The Prime Minister (Leader of the Conservative Party)

I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman has got the old vice of reading out the pre-prepared question without listening to the answer I have just given. I have made it absolutely clear that this Government take responsibility for everything that we have done throughout this crisis. Of course I pay tribute once again to the work of every care worker in the country and I thank them, but what we have also done is put forward a care home action plan that has helped our care workers and our care home industry to get the incidence of coronavirus right down in every care home in the country to the lowest level, and we are now putting in monthly testing for every resident in our care homes and weekly testing for every care home worker. That is thanks to the fantastic efforts of everybody involved in NHS testing and tracing—and I think, by the way, that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should pay tribute to them as well.

Sir Keir Starmer Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition (Leader of the Labour Party)

The Prime Minister continues to insult those on the frontline by not taking these issues seriously. The Prime Minister must recognise that huge mistakes have been made. Two months ago at PMQs I highlighted the weakness of the early guidance on care homes. The Prime Minister, typically flippant, simply said it was “not true”. There were repeated warnings from the care sector and repeated delays in providing protective equipment —this was not hindsight; they were raised here day in, day out and week in, week out. It was not hindsight; it was real-time for the frontline. It was the same with routine testing. And the decision to discharge 25,000 people to care homes without tests was clearly a mistake. Will the Prime Minister simply accept that his Government were just too slow to act on care homes, full stop?

Boris Johnson The Prime Minister (Leader of the Conservative Party)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows very well—or he should know very well—that the understanding of the disease has changed dramatically in the months that we have had it. When he looks at the action plan that we brought in to help our care workers, I think he would appreciate the vast amount of work that they have done, the PPE that they have been supplied with and the testing that they have been supplied with. That has helped them to get the incidence of the disease down to record lows, and it has enabled us to get on with our work, as the Government, in getting this country through this epidemic—getting this country back on its feet. That is what this country wants to see. We have stuck to our plan to open up our economy gradually and cautiously; one week he is in favour of it, the next week he is against it. What this country wants to see is a steady, stable approach to getting our country back on its feet. That is what we are delivering.

Sir Keir Starmer Leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition (Leader of the Labour Party)

Finally, to add further insult to injury, there are reports this morning that the Government are to remove free hospital parking for NHS workers in England. The Prime Minister will know that this could cost hundreds of pounds a month for our nurses, our doctors, our carers and our support staff. We owe our NHS workers so much. We all clap for them; we should be rewarding them, not making it more expensive to go to work. The Prime Minister must know that this is wrong; will he reconsider and rule it out?

Boris Johnson The Prime Minister (Leader of the Conservative Party)

The hospital car parks are free for NHS staff for this pandemic—they are free now—and we are going to get on with our manifesto commitment to make them free for patients who need them as well. The House will know that that was never the case under the Labour Government—neither for staff nor for patients. May I respectfully suggest that the right hon. and learned Gentleman takes his latest bandwagon and parks it free somewhere else? One week he is backing us; the next week he is not. One week he is in favour of a tax on wealth and tax on homes; the next week he tries to tiptoe away from it. We know how it works: he takes one brief one week, one brief the next. He is consistent only in his opportunism, whereas we get on with our agenda: build, build, build for jobs, jobs, jobs. The House will hear more about that shortly.

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PMQ: Anna McMorrin on living wages and unacceptable work conditions

Prime Minister: Engagements (8 Jul 2020)
Boris Johnson and Anna McMorrin - Prime Minister: Engagements (8 Jul 2020)

Prime Minister’s Questions: 8 July 2020

Questioned By Anna McMorrin Shadow Minister (International Development)

I am shocked and angered at workers in UK clothing factories such as Boohoo being paid a mere £3.50 an hour and being forced to work in totally unacceptable conditions. In the 21st century, there must be no room for exploitation and modern slavery. We must call time on fast fashion for the sake of people and our planet, so my question is simple: what will the Prime Minister do about it?

Answered By Boris Johnson The Prime Minister (Leader of the Conservative Party)

First, it is this Conservative Government who set out laws against modern slavery. It is this Conservative Government who massively increased the living wage — not only instituted the living wage, but massively increased it. We hoped that it would be the Labour mayor of Leicester who would stand up for the interests of the workforce in his community. That is what we will do.

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Economic Update

Rishi Sunak - Economic Update (8 Jul 2020)
Rishi Sunak - Economic Update (8 Jul 2020)

Economic Update (8 Jul 2020)

Rishi Sunak The Chancellor of the Exchequer

I stood here in March saying I knew people were worried, and I know they are worried still. We have taken decisive action to protect our economy, but people are anxious about losing their job and about unemployment rising. We are not just going to accept that. People need to know that we will do all we can to give everyone the opportunity of good and secure work. People need to know that although hardship lies ahead, no one will be left without hope. So today, we act with a plan for jobs. Our plan has a clear goal: to protect, support and create jobs. It will give businesses the confidence to retain and hire, to create jobs in every part of our country, to give young people a better start and to give people everywhere the opportunity of a fresh start. Where problems emerge, we will confront them. Where support is justified, we will provide it. Where challenges arise, we will overcome them. We entered this crisis unencumbered by dogma and we continue in that spirit, driven always by the simple desire to do what is right.

Before I turn to our plan for jobs, let me first outline the nature of the challenge. Our economic response to coronavirus is moving through three phases. In the first phase, beginning in March, the Government announced social distancing measures and ordered businesses to close, halting the spread of the disease. We put in place one of the largest and most comprehensive economic responses in the world. Our £160 billion plan protects people’s jobs, incomes and businesses. We supported more than 11 million people and jobs through the job retention and self-employment schemes, alongside billions of pounds for the most vulnerable. We supported over 1 million businesses to protect jobs through tax cuts, tax deferrals, direct cash grants and over 1 million Government-backed loans. And we supported public services, with new funding for the NHS, schools, public transport and local authorities. In total, we have now provided £49 billion to support public services since this crisis began.

Analysis I am publishing today shows our interventions significantly protected people’s incomes, with the least well off in society supported the most, and this crisis has highlighted the special bond which holds our country together. Millions of people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been protected by the UK Government’s economic interventions, and they will be supported by today’s plan for jobs. No nationalist can ignore the undeniable truth: this help has only been possible because we are a United Kingdom.

Four months on, as we carefully reopen our economy, we are entering the second phase of our economic response. Despite the extraordinary support we have already provided, we face profound economic challenges. World economic activity has slowed, with the International Monetary Fund expecting the deepest global recession since records began. Household consumption—the biggest component of our economy—has fallen steeply. Businesses have stopped trading and stopped hiring. Taken together, in just two months our economy contracted by 25%, the same amount that it grew by in the previous 18 years. And the independent Office for Budget Responsibility and Bank of England are both projecting significant job losses, the most urgent challenge we now face. I want every person in this House and in the country to know that I will never accept unemployment as an unavoidable outcome. We have not done everything we have so far just to step back now and say, “Job done.” In truth, the job has only just begun.

If the first phase of our economic response was about protection and the second phase—the phase we are addressing today—is about jobs, there will come a third phase, where we will rebuild. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has set out our vision to level up, unite the country, spread opportunity, and repair and heal the wounds exposed through this crisis. I can tell the House that we will produce a Budget and spending review in the autumn.

And we will deal, too, with the challenges facing our public finances. Over the medium term, we must, and we will, put our public finances back on a sustainable footing. In other words, our plan for jobs will not be the last action, but is merely the next, in our fight to recover and rebuild after coronavirus.

Let me now turn to the detail of our plan for jobs. Central to our economic response has been the jobs retention scheme. Furlough has been a lifeline for millions, supporting people and businesses to protect jobs, but it cannot, and should not, go on forever. I know that when furlough ends it will be a difficult moment. I am also sure that if I say the scheme must end in October, critics will say it should end in November. If I say it should end in November, critics will just say December. But the truth is, calling for endless extensions to the furlough is just as irresponsible as it would have been, back in June, to end the scheme overnight.

We have to be honest: leaving the furlough scheme open forever gives people false hope that it will always be possible to return to the jobs they had before. The longer people are on furlough, the more likely it is that their skills will fade, and they will find it harder to get new opportunities. It is in no one’s long-term interests for the scheme to continue forever, least of all those trapped in a job that can exist only because of Government subsidy. So the furlough will wind down, flexibly and gradually, supporting businesses and people through to October.

While we cannot protect every job, one of the most important things we can do to prevent unemployment is to get as many people as possible from furlough back to their jobs. So, today, we are introducing a new policy to reward and incentivise employers who successfully bring furloughed staff back—a new jobs retention bonus.

If you are an employer and you bring back someone who was furloughed, and you continuously employ them through to January, we will pay you a £1,000 bonus per employee. It is vital that people are not just returning for the sake of it; they need to be doing decent work. For businesses to get the bonus, the employee must be paid at least £520, on average, in each month from November to January, the equivalent of the lower earnings limit in national insurance.

The House should understand the significance of this policy. We will pay the bonus for all furloughed employees. So if employers bring back all 9 million people who have been furloughed, that would be a £9 billion policy to retain people in work. Our message to business is clear: if you stand by your workers, we will stand by you.

The furlough was the right policy to support people through the first phase of this crisis, but now, in this new phase, we need to evolve our approach. Today, I want to set out for the House a new three-point plan for jobs. We need to: first, support people to find jobs; secondly, create jobs; and, thirdly, protect jobs.

Let me start with supporting jobs, in particular the help we want to provide for those who will be hardest hit by this crisis: younger people. Over 700,000 people are leaving education this year. Many more are just starting out in their careers. Coronavirus has hit them hard—under-25s are two and a half times as likely to work in a sector that has been closed.

We cannot lose that generation, so today I am announcing the kick-start scheme, a new programme to give hundreds of thousands of young people in every region and every nation of Britain the best possible chance of getting on and getting a job. The kick-start scheme will pay employers directly to create new jobs for any 16 to 24-year-old at risk of long-term unemployment. These will be new jobs, with the funding conditional on the firm proving that the jobs are additional. These will be decent jobs, with a minimum of 25 hours per week paid at least the national minimum wage, and they will be good-quality jobs, with employers providing kick-starters with training and support to find a permanent job.

If employers meet those conditions, we will pay young people’s wages for six months, plus an amount to cover overheads. That means, for a 24-year-old the grant will be around £6,500. Employers can apply to be part of the scheme from next month, with the first kick-starters in their new jobs this autumn. I urge every employer, big or small, national or local, to hire as many kick-starters as possible. Today, I am making available an initial £2 billion, enough to fund hundreds of thousands of jobs, and I commit: there will be no cap on the number of places available.

We can do more for young people. Traineeships are a proven scheme to get young people ready for work, and we know they work, so for the first time ever we will pay employers £1,000 to take on new trainees, with triple the number of places. What is more, to help 18 to 19-year-olds leaving school or college to find work in high-demand sectors, such as engineering, construction and social care, we will provide £100 million to create more places on level 2 and 3 courses.

The evidence says that careers advice works, too, so we will fund it, with enough new careers advisers to support over a quarter of a million more people. We will also expand our universal skills offer. Sector-based work academies provide training, work placements and a guaranteed job interview in high-demand sectors, and the evidence shows they work, so we will expand them, by tripling the number of places.

We know that apprenticeships work, too, with 91% of apprentices staying in work or doing further training afterwards, so for the next six months we will pay employers to create new apprenticeships. We will pay businesses to hire young apprentices, with a new payment of £2,000 per apprentice, and introduce a brand new bonus for businesses to hire apprentices aged 25 and over, with a payment of £1,500. I thank my right hon. Friend the Education Secretary for his support and commitment in developing these measures.

We know that the longer someone is out of work, the harder it is for them to return. Millions of people are moving on to universal credit and need urgent support to get back to work, so we are doubling the number of work coaches in jobcentres, increasing the flexible support fund, extending the rapid response service, expanding the work and health programme, and developing a new scheme to support the long-term unemployed. The academic and economic evidence tells us these are among the most effective things we can do.

For that reason, I am investing an extra £1.2 billion in the Department for Work and Pensions to support millions of people back to work, and I am grateful for everything my right hon. Friend the Work and Pensions Secretary and her incredible team have done. I am talking about £1 billion of support for the unemployed, more money for skills, traineeships, apprenticeships, and a new, good-quality job for hundreds of thousands of new kick-starters. That is the first part of our plan for jobs.

The second part of our plan is to support job creation, and that begins with historic investment in infrastructure to create jobs in every region and nation of the UK. At the Budget, I announced £88 billion of capital funding this year, and last week the Prime Minister announced our plans to accelerate £5 billion of additional investment projects. We are doubling down on our ambition to level up, with better roads, better schools, better hospitals and better high streets, creating jobs in all four corners of the country.

As well as investing in infrastructure, we want to create green jobs. This will be a green recovery, with concern for our environment at its heart, and as part of that, I am announcing today a new £2 billion green homes grant. From September, homeowners and landlords will be able to apply for vouchers to make their homes more energy efficient and create local jobs. The grants will cover at least two thirds of the cost—up to £5,000 per household—and for low-income households we will go even further, with vouchers covering the full cost, up to £10,000.

On top of the £2 billion voucher scheme, I am releasing £1 billion of funding to improve the energy efficiency of public sector buildings, alongside a £50 million fund to pilot the right approach to decarbonise social housing. Taken together, we expect these measures to make more than 650,000 homes more energy efficient; to save households up to £300 a year on their bills; to cut carbon by more than half a megatonne per year—equivalent to taking 270,000 cars off the road; and, most importantly right now, to support around 140,000 green jobs. A £3 billion green jobs plan to save money, cut carbon and create jobs.

One of the most important sectors for job creation is housing. The construction sector adds £39 billion a year to the UK economy. House building alone supports nearly three quarters of a million jobs, with millions more relying on the availability of housing to find work. But property transactions fell by 50% in May. House prices have fallen for the first time in eight years and uncertainty abounds in the market—a market we need to be thriving. We need people feeling confident—confident to buy, sell, renovate, move and improve. That will drive growth. That will create jobs. So to catalyse the housing market and boost confidence, I have decided today to cut stamp duty.

Right now, there is no stamp duty on transactions below £125,000. Today, I am increasing the threshold to half a million pounds. This will be a temporary cut running until 31 March next year, and, as is always the case, these changes to stamp duty will take effect immediately. The average stamp duty bill will fall by £4,500 and nearly nine out of 10 people buying a main home this year will pay no stamp duty at all. Stamp duty cuts, a £5,000 green homes grant and tens of billions of pounds of new capital projects—we are creating jobs: the second part of our plan for jobs.

The final part of our plan will protect jobs that already exist by helping some of our highest-employing but hardest-hit sectors: hospitality and tourism. Our economy relies on consumption, especially social consumption: the pubs, cafés, restaurants, hotels and B&Bs that bring life to our villages, towns and cities. Taken together, these sectors employ over 2 million people—disproportionately younger, women and people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. Many rural and coastal communities rely on these industries. Some 80% of hospitality firms temporarily stopped trading in April and 1.4 million workers have been furloughed—the highest proportions of any sector. So the best jobs programme we can do is to restart these sectors and get our pubs, restaurants, cafés and B&Bs bustling again.

I know people are cautious about going out, but we would not have lifted the restrictions if we did not think we could do so safely. I have seen in the last few weeks how hard businesses are working to make their premises safe, and if we follow the guidance and respect what they ask us to do, we can all enjoy summer safely. In turn, we need to give these businesses the confidence to know that if they open up, invest in making their premises safe and protect jobs, demand will be there—and be there quickly. So today, I am announcing two new measures to get these sectors moving and protect jobs.

First, at the moment, VAT on hospitality and tourism is charged at 20%, so I have decided, for the next six months, to cut VAT on food, accommodation and attractions. Eat-in or hot takeaway food from restaurants, cafés and pubs; accommodation in hotels, B&Bs, campsites and caravan sites; attractions like cinemas, theme parks and zoos—all these and more will see VAT reduced, from next Wednesday until 12 January, from 20% to 5%. This is a £4 billion catalyst for the hospitality and tourism sectors, benefiting over 150,000 businesses and consumers everywhere—all helping to protect 2.4 million jobs.

But we will go further. The final measure I am announcing today has never been tried in the UK before. This moment is unique. We need to be creative. So, to get customers back into restaurants, cafés and pubs and protect the 1.8 million people who work in them, I can announce today that, for the month of August, we will give everyone in the country an eat-out-to-help-out discount. Meals eaten at any participating business, Monday to Wednesday, will be 50% off, up to a maximum discount of £10 per head for everyone, including children. Businesses will need to register and can do so through a simple website, open next Monday. Each week in August, businesses can then claim the money back, with the funds in their bank account within five working days. Some 1.8 million people work in this industry. They need our support, and with this measure, we can all eat out to help out. A VAT cut to 5% and a first-of-its-kind Government-backed discount for all—that is the third part of our plan for jobs.

A £1,000 jobs retention bonus; new, high-quality jobs for hundreds of thousands of young kick-starters; £1 billion to double the number of work coaches and support the unemployed; more apprenticeships, more traineeships and more skills funding; billions of pounds for new job creation projects across the country; a £3 billion plan to support 140,000 green jobs; and, in this vital period, as we get going again, VAT cut, stamp duty cut and meals out cut—all part of our plan for jobs worth up to £30 billion.

Governments, much less people, rarely get to choose the moments that define them. What choice there is comes in how we respond. For me, this has never just been a question of economics, but of values. I believe in the nobility of work. I believe in the inspiring power of opportunity. I believe in the British people’s fortitude and endurance. And it is that value, endurance, more than any other that we need to embody now—a patience to live with the uncertainty of the moment and to find that new balance between safety and normality. We will not be defined by this crisis but by our response to it. It is an unambiguous choice to make this moment meaningful for our country in a way that transcends the frustration and loss of recent months. It is a plan to turn our national recovery into millions of stories of personal renewal. It is our plan for jobs, and I commend it to this House.