Jun 30, 2020
Boris Johnson Speech on Coronavirus Recovery Infrastructure Plan
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a June 30 speech unveiling his plans for post-lockdown coronavirus recovery. It is a “New Deal”-like £5 billion British infrastructure plan to construct schools, hospitals and roads to help the country “bounce forward” after COVID-19. Read the full speech transcript here.
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Boris Johnson: (00:01)
Thank you. And it may seem a bit premature to make a speech now about Britain after COVID, when that deceptively nasty disease is still rampant in other countries. And when global case numbers are growing fast. And when many in this country are nervous, rightly, about more outbreaks for the national or local. Like the flare up in Leicester. Whereas I promise we’re putting on the brakes, and I thank the people of Leicester for their forbearance. And yet, we cannot continue simply to be prisoners of this crisis. We’re preparing now, slowly, cautiously, to come out of hibernation. And I believe it’s absolutely vital for us to set out the way ahead so that everyone can think and plan for the future short, medium, and longterm. Because if the COVID crisis has taught us one thing, it’s that this country needs to be ready for what may be coming. And we need to be able to move with levels of energy and speed that we have not needed for generations.
Boris Johnson: (01:18)
And I know that there are plenty of things that people will say, and we got wrong. And we owe that discussion, and that honesty, to the tens of thousands who have died before their time. To the families who have lost loved ones. And of course there must be time to learn the lessons, and we will. But I also know that some things went right, and emphatically right. And I think of the speed and efficiency with which we put up the Nightingales. 10 days for a hospital. I think of the drive and inventiveness of the British companies who rose to the ventilator challenge with three brand new production lines called into being, within the space of eight weeks. With a new model of ventilator developed in March and granted regulatory approval in weeks. Nine and a half thousand of them now made.
Boris Johnson: (02:18)
I pay tribute to the pace at which Oxford University managed to perform the trials for Dexamethasone, the world’s first demonstrably lifesaving treatment for the disease. I mean, all of the problem crunching fury with which HMRC and the treasury created the furlough scheme, and all the other means of support. World-leading standards of protection for jobs and incomes set up in a matter of days. There were brilliant and determined individuals who more than rose to the challenge of this crisis. There were thousands and thousands who put their hearts and souls into it. And yet our debt is not just to them. It’s not just even to the devotion and the love of the NHS, and the care workers who saved so many lives, including my own. There was one big reason in the end that we were able to avert a far worse disaster. And that was because the whole of society came together to make a sacrifice on behalf of those who might be particularly vulnerable. Particularly the elderly.
Boris Johnson: (03:36)
We all knew when we went into lockdown, that there would be huge economic costs. And we could see what would happen. And yet we did it. The United Kingdom, in a display of solidarity not seen since the second world war. And so today, we must combine that energy and drive with that concentrated burst of collective willpower that protected the NHS and controlled the virus, and saved literally hundreds of thousands of lives. And we must work fast because we’ve already seen the vertiginous drop in GDP. And we know that people are worried now about their jobs and their businesses. And we’re waiting, as if between the flash of lightning and the thunder clap, with our hearts in our mouths for the full economic reverberations to appear. And so we must use this moment now, this interval, to plan our response and to fix, of course, the problems that were most brutally illuminated in that COVID lightning flash. The problems in our social care system, the parts of government that seemed to respond so sluggishly. So that sometimes it seemed like that recurring bad dream when you’re telling your feet to run and your feet won’t move.
Boris Johnson: (05:10)
And yet we must also go further and realize that if we are to recover fully, if we’re to deal with the coming economic aftershock, then this COVID crisis is also the moment to address the problems in our country, that we have failed to tackle for decades. Because it’s one of the most extraordinary features of the U.K. in so many ways, the greatest place on earth, that we tolerate such yawning gaps between the best and the rest. We have some of the best and most productive companies in the world. And yet, we are not as nationally productive as many of our global competitors. We have the world’s most brilliant medical minds, the world’s best pharmaceutical companies, our doctors, our treatments are the best in the world. And yet we have so many millions who have to wait for too long to see their GP, even before the new waiting lists produced by the crisis.
Boris Johnson: (06:11)
We have umpteen fantastic globally outstanding universities, and yet too many degree courses are not now delivering value. And for a century, we failed to invest enough in further education and give young people the practical training and further education they need. We have a capital city. London was, is, will be, in so many ways, the capital of the world, great respect to Andy. Theater, finance, tech, restaurants, you name it. London leads the world. And yet too many parts of our amazing country have felt left behind, neglected, unloved, as though someone had taken a strategic decision that their fate did not matter as much as the metropolis. So I want you to know that this government not only has a vision to change this country for the better, we have a mission to unite and to level up. And it’s the mission on which we were elected last year, and we have a plan.
Boris Johnson: (07:19)
And in advancing that plan now, I just served notice that we will not be responding to this crisis with what people called austerity. We’re not going to cheese power our way out of trouble. Because the world has moved on since 2008. And we not only face a new, and in some ways, a far bigger challenge. And I can tell everybody, businesses, that next week, the Chancellor Ritchie Suna, we’ll be setting out our immediate plan to support the economy through the first phase of the recovery. But this moment also gives us a much greater chance to be radical and to do things differently. To build back better and to build back bolder. And so we will be doubling down on our strategy. We will double down on leveling up, if you can make sense of that. And when I say level up, I don’t mean attacking our great companies, or I don’t mean impeding the success of London, far from it. Or launching some punitive raid on the wealth creators. I don’t believe in tearing people down any more than I believe in tearing down statues that are part of our heritage. Let alone a statue of our greatest wartime leader. I believe in building people up, giving everyone growing up in this country the opportunity they need. Whoever you are, whatever your ethnicity, whatever your background. And there are certain things that are indispensable for that opportunity. Hospital you’re born in. Schools you go to. The safety of the streets where you grow up.
Boris Johnson: (09:17)
And this government has not forgotten that we were elected to build 40 new hospitals. And we will. Matt Hancock is setting up a list in the next few days, and that is just the beginning. We will continue, and step up, the biggest ever program of funding the NHS. And we won’t wait to fix the problems of social care that every government has flunked for the last 30 years, we will end the injustice that some people have to sell their homes to finance the cost of their care while others don’t. And we’re finalizing our plans. And we will build a cross-party consensus. We want to look after those who have looked after us.
Boris Johnson: (10:06)
And at the same time, we will build the foundations now for future prosperity, to make this country a Britain that is fully independent and self-governing for the first time in 45 years. The most attractive place to live, to invest, to set up a company. With the most motivated and highly skilled workforce. And so we’re investing massively now in education, with over 14 billion pounds for primary and secondary education between now and 2023. And today, with a new 10 year school building program, beginning now with 1 billion pounds for the first 50 schools. And a vast 1.5 billion pound program for refurbishing our dilapidated Effie sector. Dilapidated in many places. Not here, of course.
Boris Johnson: (10:55)
Because it’s time. It’s time that the system recognized that talent and genius are expressed as much by hand and by eye as they are by a spreadsheet or an essay. So when I say unite and level up, when I say build up people and build up talent, I want to end the current injustice. It means a pupil from a London state school is now 50% more likely to go to a top university than a pupil from the West Midlands. And that is not only unjust. It is such a waste of human talent. We will unleash the potential of the entire country. And that means basic things. Cracking down again on the crime, the blights to many of our streets and to many lives. And we’ll get on with our plan to recruit 20,000 more police officers. We’ve already found 3000 or recruited 3000. And I thank the police again for everything they’re doing, and have done in this crisis.
Boris Johnson: (12:04)
We will back our police all the way, and give our justice system the powers we need to end the lunacy that stops us, for instance, deporting some violent offenders. Just as we’ve already stopped the automatic early release of terrorists. We’ll make this country safer. We will build the hospitals, build the schools, the colleges. But we will also build back greener and build a more beautiful Britain. We will protect our landscape with flood defenses and plant 30,000 hectares of trees every year, creating a new patchwork of woodlands to enchant and reenergize the soul. And in those towns that feel left behind, we have plans to invest in their centers. The new academy schools, new green buses, new broadband. And we want to make them places where people have the confidence to stay, to raise their families, to start businesses. And not to feel that all the action is in the cities or in the metropolis.
Boris Johnson: (13:16)
And yet, I don’t think that this crisis has ended the desire or the need to move around swiftly and efficiently. We’ve all, or many of us, been learning the wonders of Zoom and MS Teams. And the pleasure of muting and unmuting our colleagues at key moments. But we still need to travel. And more than ever, the time has come when we must unite and level up in the most basic way possible, not just with HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, but with better roads, better rail all around. Unlocking the Central Manchester bottleneck that delays services across the North. 4,000 brand new zero carbon-
Boris Johnson: (14:03)
Across the North, 4,000 brand new zero carbon buses, a massive new plan for cycleways across the country. And we will build and rebuild those vital connections to every part of the UK, because now is the moment to strengthen that incredible partnership between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Boris Johnson: (14:26)
I know that sometimes people have paid up the legitimate variations in response, between the devolved administrations. But when you look at the whole effort, you can see the absolutely vital role of that union and that partnership. It is our fantastic UK armed services that have played such a crucial role in this crisis. Running the test centers, building the hospitals, transporting people from the Shetlands to the right COVID wards. It was the might of the United Kingdom Treasury that set up that furlough scheme in all corners of the country, sent massive and immediate extra funding to all four parts of the UK. I think the union has more than showed its worth.
Boris Johnson: (15:20)
And a prosperous and United Kingdom, must be also be a connected kingdom. And that’s why we’re now accelerating projects from the Southwest to the Northeast, from Wales to Scotland, to Northern Ireland. And to drive economic growth in all parts of the country, I can say that we will carry out a study of all future road, rail, air, and cross sea links between all our parts of the UK.
Boris Johnson: (15:51)
When did the government first promise to jewel the A1 to Scotland? I tell you it was 1992. This government is going to get on and do it. And it is this infrastructure revolution that will allow us also to end that other chronic failure of the British state, decade after decade, in which we have failed to build enough homes. We will build fantastic new homes on brownfield sites and other areas that with better transport and other infrastructure could frankly be suitable and right for development.
Boris Johnson: (16:33)
And we will address that intergenerational injustice and help young people get on the housing ladder in the way that their parents and grandparents could. And it’s to galvanize this whole process that this government will shortly bring forward the most radical reforms of our planning system, since the end of the second world war. Yes, we will insist on beautiful low-carbon homes, like this one. But COVID has taught us the cost of delay. Why do larger procurement projects take 80% longer in the UK than in Germany? Why are UK capital costs typically between 10 and 30% higher than other European projects? Why is HS2 transformational, that it will be, going to cost us the equivalent of the GDP of Sri Lanka? Why are we so slow at building homes by comparison with other European countries?
Boris Johnson: (17:41)
In 2018, we built 2.25 homes per 1000 people. Germany managed 3.6, Netherlands, 3.8, France, 6.8. I’ll tell you why, because time is money. And the Newt counting delays in our system are a massive drag on the productivity and the prosperity of this country. We will build better and build greener, but we will also build faster. And that’s why the chancellor and I have set up Project Speed to scythe through red tape and get things done. And with every home we make, every mile of full fiber broadband that we lay, every flood defending culvert that we dig, with every railway station, hospital, or school we build, we will of course be tackling the next wave of this crisis, by helping to create thousands of high-paid, high-skilled jobs.
Boris Johnson: (18:46)
Because we know in our hearts that the furloughing cannot go on forever. And as the economy recovers, we also know that jobs that many people had in January, are also not coming back, or at least not in that form. And we know that that’s the biggest and most immediate economic challenge that we face. And so we will also offer an opportunity guarantee, so that every young person has the chance of an apprenticeship, or an in work placement, so that they maintain the skills and confidence they need to find the job that is right for them.
Boris Johnson: (19:30)
Now I’m conscious as I say, all this, that it sounds like a prodigious amount of government intervention. It sounds like a new deal. And all I can say is that is, if that is so, then that is how it’s meant to sound and how it’s meant to be, because that is what the times demand. A government that powerful and determined, and that puts its arms around people at a time of crisis. That tackles homelessness, the inequalities that drive people to food banks, because it’s time now, not just for a new deal, but for a fair deal for the British people.
Boris Johnson: (20:17)
And we can do all this now, partly because of the prudent management of the economy in the last 10 years, but also because we’re planning to invest now, when the cost of borrowing allows it and when the returns are greatest. Because that is the way both now and in the medium term to drive the growth, to fuel the animal spirits and the long term business investment on which our future prosperity depends. My friends, I am not a communist. I believe it is also the job of government to create the conditions for free market enterprise.
Boris Johnson: (21:04)
And yes, of course we clap for our NHS, but under this government, we also pulled those who make our NHS possible. Our innovators, our wealth creators, our capitalists, our financiers because in the end, in the end, it’s their willingness to take risks with their own money. That will be crucial for our future success. This is Dudley, the birthplace of Abraham Darby, who massively accelerated the industrial revolution by using Coke instead of charcoal to produce pig iron. It may not sound like it, but actually Coke was the green option, still is probably, compared to charcoal. And today, Dudley remains at the cutting edge of green technology that is increasingly driving the whole of the UK economy.
Boris Johnson: (22:16)
It was here, in Dublin, in 2011 that a company called Westfield produced the world’s first commercially viable electric racing car. And the whole of West Midlands, is now a global center of battery technology. And you’re going further, I’ve seen it with the Institute of Technology, that you’re setting up, just down the road. Batteries for EVs. And that’s the vision of Mayor Andy Street. And we will back that vision. This government will back that vision. This is a government that backs Britain and believes in British innovation.
Boris Johnson: (22:52)
And this summer, we will be creating a new science funding agency to back high-risk, high-reward projects. Because in the next hundred years, the most successful societies will be the most innovative societies. And we in this country have the knack for innovation. We lead the world in quantum computing, in life sciences in genomics, in artificial intelligence, space, satellites, net zero planes, and the longterm solutions to global warming, wind, solar, hydrogen technology, carbon capture, and storage, nuclear. And as part of our mission to reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050, we should set ourselves the goal, now, of producing the world’s first zero emission long haul passenger plane. Jet zero, let’s do it.
Boris Johnson: (24:02)
And they were no longer a military superpower. We can be a science superpower, but we must end the chasm between invention and application. That means a brilliant British discovery disappears to California and becomes a billion dollar American company, or a Chinese company. And we need now a dynamic commercial spirit to make the most of UK breakthroughs, so that British ideas produce new British industries and British jobs.
Boris Johnson: (24:37)
And yet, of course, to achieve all that from where we are now, we must first get on with the hard and painstaking work of reopening our economy. And I feel the urgency and impatience of all those sectors that are still being held back. The theaters, the arts, the salons, the gyms, cricket clubs, sectors in which we lead the world and yet which suffer because they depend on the very physical proximity and contact that COVID makes so difficult. And I say to all of you, everybody in those sectors, we will get you going as fast as we possibly can. We want to get back to life as normal for as many as possible, as fast as possible.
Boris Johnson: (25:28)
But, as we approach July the fourth. I must say that the dangers, as we can see in Leicester, the dangers have not gone away. The virus is out there, still circling like a shark in the water. And it will take all our collective discipline and resolve to keep that virus at bay. And if we can and get on to the next phase of the recovery, then we can get on all the faster to deliver our plan. Because this government is not just committed to defeating coronavirus. This government is determined to use this crisis, finally, to tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades. To build the homes, to fix the NHS, to solve social care, to tackle the skills crisis, to mend the indefensible gap in opportunity and productivity and connectivity between the regions of the UK, to unite and level up. And to that end, we will build, build, build, build back better, build back greener, build back faster.
Boris Johnson: (26:56)
And to do that at the pace that this moment requires, we need now to distill the very best of the psychic energy of the last few months. Let’s take the zap and [inaudible 00:27:10] of the armed services who built the Nightingales. Let’s take the selflessness and the love of the health and the care workers and the charities, the public spirit, and the good humor of the entire population. And let’s brew them together with the superhuman energy of Captain Tom, bounding around his garden at the age of a hundred and raising millions for charity. Let’s take that combination, that spirit, bottle it, swig it. And I believe we will have found if not quite a magic potion, at least the right formula to get us through these dark times. And I must stress that there will still be…
Boris Johnson: (28:03)
… tough times, and I must stress that there will still be some tough times ahead. And to work this whole plan through will take effort and nerve and patience and know we won’t get everything right, we certainly won’t get everything right first time. But this is the moment to be ambitious and to believe in Britain, to rise to the scale of the challenge and the opportunity. If we deliver this plan together, then we will together build our way back to health and we will not just bounce back, we will bounce forward. Stronger, better, and more united than ever before. Thank you all very much. Thank you so much. Thank you very much. I think we’re going to go now to some questions from friends in the media, and we’re going to go first to Laura Kuenssberg of the BBC.
Laura Kuenssberg: (29:19)
Thank you very much, Prime Minister. Good morning. You’ve said a very long list of promises and ambitions, but the economy is falling off a cliff and what the government’s promise today, amounts to less than a hundred pounds per person in order to try to fix the very many things that you have talked about. How does that remotely match your rhetoric? And can I ask also for the people of Leicester, can you give them any indication of how long the lockdown that’s been brought back there might last and will you commit to updating them as often as you can?
Boris Johnson: (29:49)
Yes. Thanks very much, Laura. Well, first of all, you’re absolutely right to say that the initial package that we’re talking about is £5 billion pounds, but that’s not an insignificant sum, but that’s part of a massive program overall, £34 billion pounds on the NHS, £40 billion pounds on education, £100 billion pounds on infrastructure, these sums mount up.
Boris Johnson: (30:14)
Now there’s a reason we can do this now, as I say, we’ve managed the economy prudently, it’s the right time to borrow. But what we’re saying is that this is the moment to make that big, big, long term stake, that backing of Britain, because that will deliver the longterm productivity gains, the gains that will in the end, deliver the tax revenues that of course we’re going to need down the line. We can balance this over the cycle, but we must, must, must make the investment now. That is the right way forward.
Boris Johnson: (30:51)
And on Leicester, let me just say that obviously we will be in constant communication with the authorities and Leicester, but also monitoring it nationally and ensuring that as and when the data changes and the situation improves, then we will take steps to ease the measures that we’ve had to enforce. But I think most people across the country do understand and do remember that as we come out of this, I always said there were going to be local flare ups and that we would deal with them locally. And that’s what we’re doing in Leicester and we’ll do it elsewhere. It worked in places like Ashford or Weston-super-Mare, in Leicester, it’s gone out more into the community and we need to take the steps that we have.
Laura Kuenssberg: (31:46)
Can I just pick you up there on the economy? What you’re announcing is largely an acceleration of what was already in your manifesto. So you’re trying to say to people today that COVID has changed what you want to do and changed your level of your ambition, but it looks like basically a speeded up version of what you promised back in the autumn.
Boris Johnson: (32:02)
Well, hang on. Let me just focus on that word, speeded up, Laura, because that’s the thing, and that’s right. It’s not just speeded up, it’s also intensified and increased. Because as I said to everybody early on, we all know what costs money in this country, it’s the delay. It’s the bureaucracy, it’s the planning delays that are adding so massively to the costs for young people, particularly for housing. It is much more difficult for people in this country to get the homes they need than it should be. And more difficult for them than it is for people in other comparable European countries and that’s because of the delay we’re talking about. That’s why we’re setting up Project Speed. This is not just about investment, the government leading the way, it’s also about the government trying to clear the way and to get things done faster. Thank you very much. Laura.
Boris Johnson: (32:57)
Robert Peston ITV.
Robert Peston ITV: (33:01)
Hello, Prime Minister. Oh, excuse me. To quote the Bank of England, “More than half the workforce are currently unemployed or underemployed.” This is an economic crisis, unprecedented. What confidence do you have that as the job support schemes run down and end, you will be able to keep unemployment below the 3 million level that blighted the lives of so many in the 1980s. And again, briefly on Leicester, you promised a world class test, trace and isolate scheme, in your words, you would be, “Whacking a mole,” to keep the virus under control, but you’re shutting down, in effect, a city of 500,000 people. We’re some way, aren’t we, from a world class system?
Boris Johnson: (34:07)
Okay. First of all, Robert on Leicester, I always made it very clear that we would take steps, draconian steps, if necessary, to put on the brakes and to deal with problems as they flared up. We’ve got a problem in Leicester and again, I thank the people of Leicester for their forbearance, and they’re going to have to wait a little bit longer, they’re going to have to go another period of restrictions. But I think everybody can see why that’s sensible and that’s what we’re going to do. We’ve always said we were going to operate on that basis.
Boris Johnson: (34:39)
And our testing system actually is… We’re testing now almost double per head what most other European countries are doing. And we’ve got a testing capacity of 280,000 a day. And testing is a huge part of that whack-a-mole strategy and will continue to be intensified.
Boris Johnson: (35:02)
On unemployment and the future for jobs now in this country. Of course, you’re right, we face a real, real crisis and we have to deal with it, but we’re going to deal with it in the most energetic possible way. And the analogy I’d like you to hold in your minds is a comparison with the energy with which we put together the furlough scheme. We are going to work as hard as we possibly can to make sure that people have an opportunity guarantee that they have the chance of an in-work placement, that they have the chance of an apprenticeship. But Robert, I’m not going to pretend that this is going to be without real, real difficulty and real, real bumps. I’m not going to put a number on it because I can’t at this stage, what we can do is put in the investment now. Get the plans going. Get the project underway. Get the diggers in. Start the hospitals building. Build now. That, believe me, is the way forward.
Boris Johnson: (36:07)
I remember the crisis of 2008, which was actually not as bad as the current crisis. But if you remember, people were very apprehensive about unemployment and we did have a spike in unemployment, but we tackled it then, I remember what we did. We had huge infrastructure projects that we simply kept going and ran faster. Crossrail of the Olympic Park, big construction projects around London, which I was then running, that is one of the solutions. But as you’ll see from this plan that we’ve announced today, short term, medium term, long term, there are many other aspects to it. And I believe that’s the best way forward for this country. Building, building, building our way back to health and keeping the momentum of employment in people’s lives as far as we possibly can.
Robert Peston ITV: (36:57)
On that though, the kind of investment you’ve announced, or even when it’s speeded up, it takes a long time to have an impact on prosperity. The people who are losing jobs are typically people with lower skills; in retail, in hospitality. And it looks as though those sectors are going to be shrinking for some time to come. How can you give those people the skills rapidly to find work?
Boris Johnson: (37:28)
Well, Robert, the best thing to do is not just to give them the opportunity guarantee that we’ve talked about just now, but also, of course, not to despair of the possibility of the return of their existing businesses to life in as fast a way as possible. And that’s why it is also vital that we not only get this economic recovery program going, but that we simultaneously continue to bear down on the disease.
Boris Johnson: (38:00)
And if you want what’s my plan, what’s my vision for how we’re going to cope with COVID… I don’t want a world in the next year where we’re endlessly forced to stay meters apart from each other. That’s not going to work in the longterm for the UK economy, for a great dynamic service economy such as the one that we have. It wouldn’t even work for manufacturing economy, such as the one that we have. So we’ve got to get that disease down and return to normal life as fast as we possibly can. Yes, I fully accept that there are going to be economic aftershocks, but there are also big opportunities now to take this country forward, to make investments, to make big changes in the way that I’ve described. Thank you, Robert.
Boris Johnson: (38:58)
Beth Rigby Sky News.
Beth Rigby: (39:02)
Thank you. Prime Minister, you talked about people having their hearts in their mouths as we wait for the economic reverberations of COVID, and millions of people we watched in this speech and they’ve got their hearts in their mouths about their jobs. 9 million people have been furloughed, 3 million in the hospitality sector. 9 million is over a quarter of the current workforce. You’re talking about build, build, build, what about jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs now? And I’ve got two questions on that. One, is will you extend the furlough scheme beyond September for certain sectors? And just to go back to the New Deal and Roosevelt, his works program created 4 million jobs in the US, you said you can’t put a number on what level of redundancies we might see, can you actually give us a number about what your plan means in terms of actual jobs being created?
Boris Johnson: (39:59)
No, because we don’t yet know what the full economic impact is going to be. But certainly the furlough scheme runs on to October and we will do everything we can to get this economy moving. And I think what we’ve set out is the most radical, boldest, and most ambitious vision for investment in the infrastructure and the public services of this country that I can think of in my political lifetime. But it’s also the building of the platform, this is the crucial thing, it’s the building of the platform, the bedrock, for the private sector, with all its ingenuity, to invest in and to come up with new jobs and new businesses. And so this is a program for jobs, jobs, jobs, because it’s by building, building, building, building our infrastructure, building our schools, building our hospitals, building back better, bolder and greener, that we will get the jobs that this nation needs. And that’s our strategy.
Beth Rigby: (41:07)
But if you can’t reopen the economy and Leicester is a worrying sign, will you protect people’s jobs? Or are you saying to those people furloughed, are you saying to those 3 million people working in hospitality, “I’m sorry, but you might just lose your jobs.”
Boris Johnson: (41:23)
I’d just return you to what I said to Robert. Our ambition is to try to get back as fast as we possibly can to a world in which the UK is dynamic, unbelievably creative and attractive service economy is able to operate again in a way that creates jobs. And that’s what we hope to do. But in the meantime, here’s a massive program to start us up and get us moving. And I think it will make a huge difference, but we will keep it under constant review. And if we have to go further, believe me, we certainly-
Boris Johnson: (42:03)
… review. If we have to go further, believe me, we certainly will.
Beth Rigby: (42:04)
Just one quick followup. You talked about the opportunity guarantee. In your manifesto, you had a tax guarantee. You had a tax guarantee that said to voters, no tax increases with the national insurance income tax VAT, but Roosevelt himself had to tax the wealthy for everyone to do their bit to rebuild the US economy. Are you saying to people today that parts of your rebuild will involve tax rises for those that can afford it? The manifesto promises are redundant now, aren’t they?
Boris Johnson: (42:39)
I think you should really wait to see what the chancellor has to say in the course of the next few weeks and months, but I remain absolutely determined to ensure that the tax burden, in so far as we possibly can, is reasonable and that we continue to be a dynamic, competitive open market economy. I think that’s what people will want to see. But on fiscal matters, you’re not going to tempt me, Beth, now to make any further comment. You’ll have to wait for Rishi to speak later on.
Beth Rigby: (43:15)
Okay. Thank you.
Boris Johnson: (43:15)
Thank you so much. Thank you. Pippa Crerar.
Laura Kuenssberg: (43:23)
Hello, Prime Minister. Pippa Crerar from The Daily Mirror. Following on from Robert and Beth’s questions. Many workers and businesses are already struggling really quite badly after three months of lockdown. Can you promise extra support for those who may have to withstand a second period of lockdown, for example, in places like Leicester? You’ve repeatedly throughout this crisis praised the public sector. Can you rule out a pay freeze for them and perhaps even go further and set out any signs of a new peace settlement?
Boris Johnson: (43:54)
Oh, well thanks, Pippa. Look, I think this country can be immensely proud of the way we’ve stepped up and put our arms around the workforce. 11 million people have received support, employed or self-employed [inaudible 00:00:44:10]. I think 22 billion pounds on the furlough scheme alone, 26 billion in bounced back loans. Huge sums in grants have gone out of the treasury at incredible speed. Of course, we’ll keep under constant review what’s happening in places like Leicester to ensure that people don’t get penalized for doing the right thing. I can’t remember your final point, Pippa.
Laura Kuenssberg: (44:40)
The public sector.
Boris Johnson: (44:40)
Sorry. Thank you. Well, of course, we’ll be looking at the independent public sector pay review body and seeing what they say, but I’m very proud, for instance, that under this government we’ve had a 12 and a half percent increase in pay for nurses alone since 2018. We believe in that. We believe in that investment. This government making the biggest ever investment in the NHS. Starting salary for teachers, we’re putting at 30,000 pounds. This is a very, very ambitious government that believes in investing in public services.
Laura Kuenssberg: (45:17)
Can I just also ask very quickly on behalf of some colleagues that weren’t able to be here? China’s passed a draconian security law giving powers over Hong Kong, which obviously deepens fears over the city’s freedoms. Your foreign secretary said that it cannot be business as usual anyway with China after the COVID crisis. Have you made your mind up, or will this impact on your decision about whether to allow Huawei to be allowed to be used in Britain’s 5G network?
Boris Johnson: (45:38)
Thanks, Pippa. As Dom Raab has already said, we are obviously deeply concerned about the decision to pass the national security law in Beijing, as it affects Hong Kong. We will be looking at the law very carefully. We will want to scrutinize it properly to understand whether it’s in conflict with the joint declaration between the UK and China. We’ll be setting out our response in due course. You’d have heard what I’ve already said, Pippa, about our duty to the BNOs in Hong Kong.
Boris Johnson: (46:16)
But on Huawei and another matters, the position is very, very simple. Look, I’m not going to get it drawn into Sinophobia because I’m not a Sinophobe. But on the other hand, I do want to see our critical national infrastructure properly protected from hostile state vandals. So we need to strike that balance and that’s what we’ll do. Thank you very much. Thank you. Can we go to Jason Groves, Daily Mail?
Jason Groves: (46:55)
Thanks, Prime Minister. It sounds like quite a lot of gloopy public spending. Gloopy. When are we going to hear about the kind of tax cuts and incentives for entrepreneurs we’ve expected from Torie administrations in the past? Or are you more sort of Gordon Brown than Margaret Thatcher now? Can I ask on planning? It sounds that the Nutts are going to get it. Is it the end of the vote for NIMBYs as well? Are you willing to stand up to those people in Midland who say, “Not in my backyard,” and say, “Yes, it’s going to have to be in your backyard.”?
Boris Johnson: (47:26)
Well, first of all, I don’t think that… Wait and see what Rishi has to say. You had The Daily Mirror calling for tax rises, Daily Mail calling for tax cuts. I think that we understand the debate. Where my instincts are and what I would like to do, they’re of course to cut taxes wherever you possibly can. But the difficulty we have is that we have a generational challenge now and we have to take our country forward. I think that the package we’ve out is the right one. It’s a massive program of investment of backing and believing in Britain.
Boris Johnson: (48:05)
But I also understand that on top of that bedrock of infrastructure, you need dynamic private sector concerns and you need to make sure that the fiscal environment, as we leave the EU, the fiscal environment has got to be as competitive as it can possibly be because I want people to be starting up companies. I want people to be developing their companies. As I said in the speech, I want brilliant British ideas being translated into brilliant British companies, billion pound British companies, and not just disappearing to America or China, wherever else. That requires a competitive approach to taxation, but you’re going to have to wait. As I said to Pippa, you’re going to have to wait for Rishi for the tax package.
Jason Groves: (48:58)
And the NIMBYs?
Boris Johnson: (49:00)
Look, I believe that this country has got the space, has got the opportunity on brownfield sites and elsewhere, actually on land that could be developed if you had the right infrastructure. It’s got the space to do things better and to do things bolder and to do things faster. And that’s what we’re going to do. Yes, I can imagine that there may be some people who will want to object to this or that, but there always are in life. If it had been for the treasury, we wouldn’t have built the M25, for instance. Sometimes you’ve got to get on with things. They would have done Crossrail. This country took 35 years to get Crossrail done. We need pace. This is the moment to inject that pace into the ambitions of the government.
Jason Groves: (49:57)
Boris Johnson: (49:59)
My old colleague, Peter, from the Express & Star.
Thanks, Prime Minister. Politicians and business leaders in the West Midlands have said this region needs more than three billion pounds over the next three years to get through the aftermath of the pandemic. Firstly, does the government have a spare three billion quids lying around to give to the West Midlands to help it through this period? And secondly, you’ve spoken again today reiterating your pledge to level up the country, it’s something you mentioned a lot since you’ve become prime minister. Is it not true to say, I mean, understand you’re a glass half full kind of guy, but is it not true to say that what’s happened with the pandemic is going to push back those plans to level up the country?
Boris Johnson: (50:41)
Well, Peter, look, first of all, on the three billion, I think you’ve added everything together that we’re doing. The West Midlands will get a huge investment. I wouldn’t like to identify the exact figure now, but I would be amazed if it wasn’t well north of three billion. But what we wanted to do is… The difference between this idea and [inaudible 00:51:06] plan, this is about creating the conditions for longterm increases in productivity and prosperity.
Boris Johnson: (51:18)
As I said in the speech, our companies are not as productive as they could be, some of them. We take too long to get things done and it costs too much. It costs the taxpayer too much to get things done. I do think that this is the moment to do it. I agree with you that the… You said I’m a glass half full kind of man. Well, yes, I am. I mean, I believe profoundly that we will get through this and we’ll get through this very well. I’m not going to understate the challenge, but I also think the opportunity is massive. It’s absolutely massive right now. We can make changes, do things differently, do things better. We’re offered a chance now to do things that previous generations haven’t had and we should take it. Thanks very much. Thank you. I think I’m done here. Is that right? Thank you all very much. Well done. Thank you. Thank you.
Speaker 1: (52:27)
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