Boris Johnson announces ambitious recovery plan to help Britain bounce back
Boris Johnson announces antivirals taskforce
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The Prime Minister said the Queen’s Speech will unveil initiatives for transport and the economy, plus a bold programme to help all of the UK “build back better”. Mr Johnson announced his fightback to Cabinet colleagues after days of leaks and high-level feuds engulfing his Government. As ministers insisted voters were focused on the road map out of lockdown rather than on a Downing Street war of words, the PM sought to reboot his premiership with a post-virus vision. He urged ministers at their weekly meeting to concentrate on the public’s priorities.
Key measures to support businesses, to modernise transport as well as other infrastructure and to “level up” the UK by spreading growth across the regions will be at the heart of the Government’s programme for the next parliamentary year, he promised.
Mr Johnson told the Cabinet:
“The Queen’s Speech will chart the way forward for a country coming out of Covid with a very ambitious agenda.”
Government sources said legislation lined up for the programme to be announced on May 11 will “demonstrate how we will build back better from the pandemic and fulfil our pledge to unite and level up the country”.
The PM declared the country will be “Bounce Back Britain” in coming months. He also insisted scientific data showing Covid infections are plummeting following the success of the vaccine rollout was “good”, but added: “We are not out of the woods yet.”
While the road ahead was “positive”, the Government still faced “tough decisions” in order to protect lives and livelihoods.
Mr Johnson also ordered a crackdown on Whitehall waste to ensure every penny available in the Treasury’s over-stretched
coffers goes towards the recovery.
A Government spokesman said: “The Prime Minister highlighted that departments are being asked to take part in a savings and efficiency review ahead of the Spending Review later this year.
“The purpose is to learn the lessons from the last year in how we can run services more efficiently and ensure that we focus our high levels of spending on our key priorities.
“This is a standard part of the Spending Review process.”
A Treasury spokesman said: “As part of the Government’s plan to build back better, as set out at the Budget, the Government will conduct a spending review later this year.
“The review will deliver on the Government’s priorities – including levelling up across the UK – and set future departmental budgets as well as devolved administrations’ block grants.
“Further details will be set out in due course,” they added.
Mr Johnson, seen above returning to Downing Street from his regular run, wrote to every minister in charge of a spending department yesterday to emphasise the urgency of finding savings by slashing bureaucracy and red tape.
Earlier, he had opened the Cabinet meeting by giving details of an aid support package – including machines to produce oxygen-enriched gas plus ventilators – to help tackle the severe Covid outbreak swamping India’s health services.
Mr Johnson told ministers he was “proud the UK has been able to help and that this sort of action – along with delivery of core Government commitments – is what the public want their Government to focus on”, the official spokesman said.
Ministers also discussed the Government’s ambitious plans for tackling climate change ahead of the COP environment summit in Glasgow in November. Mr Johnson told the Cabinet that climate change was the Government’s “number one” international priority.
The Prime Minister anticipates that the push for clean, green energy is likely to create “sustainable, high-wage jobs for years to come”.
Meanwhle ministers and Downing Street officials yesterday continued to fight back against the allegations about the PM’s conduct and the controversial funding of the redecoration of his family’s flat in No 11.
They also categorically denied a claim that he said he would rather “let the bodies pile high in their thousands” than order a third lockdown last year, following a tense meeting with close aides.
But his spokesman yesterday declined to deny a separate allegation that Mr Johnson told aides he would rather let coronavirus “rip” than return to restrictions in September. “I have seen the various reports and speculation which distort the actions of the Prime Minister.
“At all times he has been focused on saving lives and livelihoods,” the spokesman said.
Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey yesterday insisted that the public was focused on the pandemic and the road map out of lockdown rather than on any Downing Street briefing war.
“I think that people really focus on what it is that we’re doing to help people get through this pandemic,” she said during a round of media interviews.
“Throughout this, the Prime Minister has tried to get the balance between saving lives and saving livelihoods.
“Both are important as we make progress and we’re now on the road map to recovery, but we still have to be careful along that way.
“I genuinely believe the public, as I have been out campaigning, that’s what they’re focused on.
“Their young son or daughter who hasn’t got the job that they want yet and are worried about the opportunities for them in the future,” Ms Coffey added.
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