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The Budget 1) Sunak plans to extend furlough until September

“Rishi Sunak will announce today multibillion-pound plans to extend the furlough scheme until September, and pledge to use the “full measure of our fiscal firepower” to save jobs as Britain emerges from the lockdown. The chancellor will say that the country is facing a “moment of crisis” as he extends furlough for another five months at an estimated cost of at least £10 billion, taking it beyond the final easing of restrictions on June 21. It will form part of measures worth at least £30 billion in the budget to support those hardest hit by the lockdown, including grants for the self-employed, a six-month extension of the £20-a-week rise in universal credit, business rates relief and VAT cuts. However, he will warn that the government needs to begin fixing the nation’s finances as he announces tax rises to help to repair the economy, including significant increases in corporation tax from next year.” – The Times

  • Chancellor’s new Covid-19 support package — intended to “cushion” businesses and workers as the economy starts to reopen — will be well in excess of £20bn – FT
  • Sunak lays on razzmatazz to sell the story of budget – The Times
  • Universal Credit £20 a week boost extended for six months – The Sun
  • UK budget to extend furlough until end of September – The Guardian

Analysis:

  • What time is the announcement, and what should we expect from the Chancellor’s statement? – Daily Telegraph
  • The big question facing Sunak as he steps up to deliver his second Budget – Daily Telegraph
  • The four major tax levers the Chancellor could pull – and how much they would cost you – Daily Telegraph

The Budget 2) Chancellor should focus on growth not tax, says Kwarteng

“Rishi Sunak faces opposition from a senior cabinet minister to his expected tax rises, as the chancellor seeks to rebuild the government’s finances in today’s budget. The chancellor is expected to signal rises in corporation tax and a freezing of income tax bands to help restore public finances. But he is facing pressure from senior figures in the party not to damage the Conservatives’ reputation for tax cutting as he tries to reduce the deficit. Speaking yesterday, Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, argued that tax cuts could be unnecessary if the economy was encouraged to grow once the vaccine rollout was complete. “Obviously we have to balance the books over time, but I’m a low-tax Conservative,” Kwarteng told LBC.” – The Times

The Budget 3) Daniel Finkelstein: Sunak knows a budget spending spree must be paid for

“At the end of last year, the chancellor of the exchequer asked the Treasury to help him with a bit of history. Over the past 30 years, had his predecessors generally been tax raisers or tax cutters? The calculation isn’t as simple as it seems but officials set to work and in early January they presented Rishi Sunak with the results, an analysis of the 52 budgets and spending reviews since 1992 at which taxes were adjusted. You can look at the figures in a number of ways but the Treasury advised that the clearest and most comparable method was to look at the average annual change in taxes as a result of the announcements. This took account of the modern fashion for announcing tax increases a year or two before they are introduced.” – The Times

More comment:

Sturgeon faces crisis vote after aides’ evidence backs Salmond

“Nicola Sturgeon faces a vote of no confidence after new evidence supported claims by Alex Salmond that she lied to the Scottish parliament. Statements given to a Holyrood inquiry by two former special advisers to the Scottish government contradict the first minister of Scotland about when she knew of a sexual harassment investigation into her predecessor. Separately, the Scottish government finally published legal advice it received warning that it was likely to lose its judicial review against Salmond. The civil case was linked to its investigation process. Roddy Dunlop, QC, warned that he was “very concerned indeed” about the case in October 2018, with the government’s counsel urging it to admit defeat by December 6. It conceded a month later after the counsel threatened to resign.” – The Times

Comment:

  • The removal van should be called to Bute House now that Sturgeon’s political career and reputation are no longer intact, Douglas Ross – Daily Mail

Coronavirus 1) Early vaccine data suggests Britain won’t need another lockdown

“Vaccination will stop people passing on the coronavirus “almost completely”, the Public Health England head of immunisation has forecast. Dr Mary Ramsay said evidence was mounting that vaccination worked to prevent infections and stop people transmitting the virus, something that would make it much easier to ease lockdown quickly and permanently. The fall in deaths is “accelerating” as a result of vaccination, according to Matt Hancock, the health secretary. He told MPs that hospital admissions were halving every 15 days for the over-85s, compared with 18 days for other ages, and deaths were halving every ten days among the oldest, compared with every 12 days among younger people. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that more than half of over-80s in England outside care homes have antibodies against Covid-19.” – The Times

  • Millions live in areas with almost no cases – The Times
  • Spain plans ‘green corridor’ to allow UK tourists to take summer holidays – as Greece says vaccinated Britons could be allowed to jump border check queues there – Daily Mail

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Political sketch:

Coronavirus 2) Summer schools could target pupils starting secondaries or sixth form

“Summer schools should be targeted at pupils starting secondary school in England this autumn, the government “catch-up tsar” has told MPs. Sir Kevan Collins said lessons and activities over the summer would focus on those who needed the most help, particularly those going into new schools in year 7 or sixth form after the summer, rather than a blanket approach. He said the millions of pounds for educational catch-up was “a start” but was not sufficient. It did not equate to a recovery plan and long-term reform was needed, he told the Commons education select committee. Figures show that a million children of key workers were in school in England last week. Once children from vulnerable families were included, this was 27 per cent of primary, 6 per cent of secondary and 18 per cent of all pupils in attendance last Thursday, a figure that has crept up each week.” – The Times

Coronavirus 3) More EU states go outside the bloc to secure Covid vaccines

“The EU’s collective approach to buying vaccines suffered further blows yesterday as Austria and Denmark announced a pact with Israel, and Slovakia received its first shipment of doses from Russia. Poland is also in talks to follow Hungary in acquiring China’s Sinopharm vaccine and several other countries are preparing to make their own arrangements amid frustration at the slow pace of distribution across the bloc. Last summer the 27 EU countries decided to band together and order a common pool of vaccines. On paper Brussels has secured up to 2.6 billion doses, or more than five doses for every person in the EU. Yet only 51.5 million of those doses have been delivered and scarcely half have been used. So far, only 6 per cent of the EU’s population have received their first dose and the semblance of solidarity is beginning to disintegrate as states plan for the next phase of the pandemic.” – The Times

Don’t be bullied by left on statues, Dowden tells museums

“Museums and institutions must not be “pushed around” by bullying left-wing activists, the culture secretary has said. Oliver Dowden told a conference that he did not wish to judge individual decisions but the left had been quietly “pushing” institutions for years. He said: “I’m the first culture secretary to stand up and say, hang on, just think as institutions about your wider duty to the nation to conserve and preserve our heritage, don’t allow yourself to be pushed around by the zeitgeist, take a longer-term view, make sure you do things in a rigorous way, and understand that your principal duty is to preserve and conserve our heritage.” Speaking at the History Matters conference, organised by the Policy Exchange think tank, he said he talked to institutions who felt that they were being bullied, particularly by left-wing campaigners.” – The Times

Johnson plans advertising campaign to turn middle class off weekend cocaine

“Boris Johnson is planning a public information campaign to crack down on middle-class drug use by making snorting cocaine as socially unacceptable as drink-driving, The Times has learnt. A government PR blitz will use billboards, posters and television and radio adverts in an attempt to change people’s attitudes to recreational drugs. They will carry graphic details to highlight how wealthy cocaine users are helping to fuel Britain’s growing epidemic of violent crime and gang warfare. The prime minister wants to imitate previous government public awareness campaigns that successfully changed attitudes, such as the “THINK!” adverts combating drink-driving and promoting road safety.” – The Times

Michael Ellis is promoted to Attorney General while Braverman goes on maternity leave

“Solicitor General Michael Ellis was promoted to Attorney General today, to become the first MP to officially cover a minister’s maternity leave. The Northampton MP will step up to become the Government’s top legal officer as incumbent Suella Braverman takes time off around the birth of her second child. The move was only made possible by a change in the law earlier this year after it emerged antiquated rules governing senior ministerial posts would have forced her to quit in order to spend any time with her child and family. A Downing Street statement said: ‘The Prime Minister gives the Attorney General his very best wishes for her maternity leave and looks forward to welcoming her back in the autumn.’ Mrs Braverman, who had a son, George, in July 2019, announced in November that she was expecting a baby ‘early next year’.” – Daily Mail

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