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UK politics live: Boris Johnson says second lockdown would be ‘financially disastrous’ for Britain


UK politics live: Boris Johnson says second lockdown would be ‘financially disastrous’ for Britain

Key points:

  • Boris Johnson being grilled by ‘super-committee’ of MPs on coronavirus and Brexit
  • He tells children to stay at school until positive test in their bubble
  • Second lockdown would be ‘financially disastrous’ for UK, he says
  • Mr Johnson says EU not negotiating trade deal in good faith
  • Rolling analysis by our chief political correspondent @joncraig throughout
  • PM faced Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner at PMQs – Sir Keir Starmer out of isolation this morning
  • Live reporting by Greg Heffer and Aubrey Allegretti, political reporters

Nearly 4,000 new coronavirus cases in the UK

There have been nearly 4,000 new cases of coronavirus in the UK in the past 24 hours.

The number of people who tested positive rose by 3,991, taking the total number of cases in the UK to 378,219.

In addition, there has been a further 20 coronavirus deaths of people who died within 28 days of positive test.

Boris Johnson

Second lockdown ‘would be disastrous for economy’ – PM

Conservative MP Julian Knight – who chairs the digital, media and culture select committee – asks the prime minister whether the country would be able to afford a second national lockdown.

Boris Johnson says he doesn’t want such an outcome and says ministers are doing “everything in our power” to avoid this.

He says he doubts that the consequences of a second national shutdown “would be anything but disastrous” for the economy.

Knight also asks about support for the creative sector. The prime minister says the government has made a “big investment” in the “vital” arts and cultural industries, and says the government “already” has a recovery plan for this sector.

He adds that quick “pregnancy-style” Covid tests may offer a route towards allowing theatres and football stadiums to return to normality.

He says that the science behind the “liberating” tests is “almost there”, but the government is “some way off” being able to roll out such a mass testing programme.

PM: Government will continue to apply ‘levels of imagination’

Tory MP Mel Stride, who chairs the Treasury Committee, says one of the “greatest economic challenges” coming out of the pandemic will be jobs and unemployment.

“Hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost which are perfectly viable in a post-Covid world but need support to get through the coming months,” Stride says.

He asks why the government “doesn’t seem prepared to provide targeted support” for particular sectors.

Johnson says the government “has done more than virtually any other government around the world” to help save jobs.

He adds: “We will continue to show great creativity and flexibility in trying to look after every sector of the economy.”

When Stride says, “I take that as a yes”, Johnson appears to agree, adding: “I don’t believe anyone on this committee believed this government would come up with anything as imaginative as the furlough scheme and we will continue to apply the same levels of imagination.”

Stride concludes with a question around the one million people who “fell through the gaps” and were not entitled to help from the Treasury.

Boris Johnson says there was a “dizzying variety of schemes” so “most people should have been able to qualify for something, even if just cuts for VAT and business rates”.

But he says the bill for such schemes is £160bn “so far”.

The PM adds: “We are determined to put our arms round the workforce of this country and to support this country to bounce back.

“But there must be some, of course, limits.”

When will there be a Covid inquiry?

Tory MP William Wragg asks the prime minister when an inquiry will begin into the response to the pandemic.

Boris Johnson says: “I don’t think that would be a good use of officials’ time at the moment.”

He says they should be focused on things like the “very, very pressing need to ramp up the testing operation”.

Wragg pushes on why the ground work can’t start now for an inquiry to begin in the new year and asked about what lessons have been learnt so far.

The PM repeats his previews answer, and says the government has learned “all sorts of things”, such as details about asymptomatic transmission.

PM ‘understands frustration’ of pupils and parents over testing

Sir Bernard Jenkin, chair of the committee, then asks the PM how testing will be prioritised for schools.

He says in his own constituency, 97% of pupils came back to a school when it reopened but now only 88% are there with many waiting for tests.

Johnson says: “I appreciate the frustrations of parents and pupils.

“All I can say is we are doing our level best… to speed the process up.”

We will continue to bring you updates from the committee hearing relating to coronavirus. You can also follow full coverage of it from our colleagues on the politics team.

UK PM: We don’t have enough testing capacity

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now facing questions from senior MPs during a session of the Liaison Committee, which is made up of all the chairs of the various select committees in the Commons.

Conservative MP Greg Clark, who chairs the science and technology committee, asked the PM about problems with the coronavirus testing capacity and whether the government currently has the ability to carry out enough tests.

“No we don’t,” Johnson replied.

He said demand for tests has “massively accelerated” in the last couple of weeks – but the government is aiming to carry out 500,000 tests per day by the end of October.

Continuing with the testing target, Clark asks if the 500,000 testing capacity will be enough to cope with those displaying Covid-like symptoms in the autumn and winter.

The prime minister says “everything is being done that we possibly can” to increase capacity.

He says it is worth “bearing in mind” that more people are being tested per head than in France or Germany.

 

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