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PM announces fresh help for self-employed during second lockdown

Written by on 2 November 2020

Self-employed workers will be able to claim government support worth 80% of trading profits as England prepares to enter a new lockdown, Boris Johnson has announced.

Ahead of the new national measures coming into force on Thursday, the prime minister used a House of Commons statement to warn of an “existential threat” to the NHS due to the “remorseless advance” of the second wave of coronavirus infections.

“It’s now clear we must do more together,” he told MPs.

From Thursday, pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential shops will have to close in England and people will be told to stay at home – apart from when attending school, college, university, work or go food shopping.

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‘I make no apology for trying to avoid lockdown’

In order to reflect the extension of the furlough scheme for employed workers through November, Mr Johnson announced support for the self-employed will also be boosted ahead of the new month-long lockdown.

Under the latest instalment of the UK-wide Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), self-employed workers will receive 80% of their average trading profits for November.

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The grants will also be paid faster than previously planned, with the claims window being brought forward from 14 December to 30 November.

In a Twitter post soon after the prime minister’s announcement, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “We’re increasing the support to the self-employed from 40% of trading profits to 80% for November.

“SEISS is calculated over 3 months so this increases the total grant from 40% to 55% of trading profits for November to January and the max grant increases to GBP5,160.”

The government is also acting to allow more businesses to benefit from government loan schemes by extending the deadlines for applications.

What you can and can't do during second lockdown

What you can and can’t do during second lockdown

The prime minister has faced backlash from within his own Conservative Party over the decision to announce a new England-wide lockdown.

Some senior Tory backbenchers have declared they will vote against the lockdown in a House of Commons vote on Wednesday ahead of the lockdown’s proposed start date of Thursday.

Sir Charles Walker told Sky News that 15 Conservative MPs would rebel against the government in the vote and has warned that the country is drifting “further into an authoritarian, coercive state”.

But Mr Johnson warned that, without action, the country “could see up to twice as many deaths over the winter as we saw in the first wave”.

The prime minister told critics of a new lockdown that the country was facing a “medical and moral disaster”.

And, in a retort to those – such as Labour – who wanted him to have acted sooner, he defended his previous opposition to a new national lockdown, with the government having pursued a system of localised restrictions since the summer.

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The prime minister rejected suggestions he had been slow to act with fresh national measures, highlighting how the rate of deaths and infections are lower than they were in France before President Emmanuel Macron announced a new lockdown.

At the weekend, senior cabinet minister Michael Gove suggested England’s new lockdown could be extended beyond 2 December – when it is due to end – if necessary.

But Mr Johnson stressed to the Commons that the new restrictions were “time limited” and will expire after four weeks.

The prime minister promised MPs a vote “to agree the way forward” after 2 December, with the government intending to return to its tiered system for localised restrictions.

He said the government would be announcing which tiers parts of England would be returning to in the week before the new national measures end.

He also told the Commons he would look at what further exemptions might be made to the incoming national lockdown restrictions, but warned “it is very difficult take out one part of the Jenga block without disturbing the whole package”.

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‘PM’s shown catastrophic failure of leadership’

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused Mr Johnson of a “catastrophic failure of leadership and judgement” for having previously rejected the advice of government scientists, given in September, for a “circuit breaker” lockdown.

“At every stage, the prime minister has been too slow, behind the curve,” he said.

“At every stage, he has pushed away challenge, ignored advice and put what he hoped would happen above what is happening.”

Earlier on Monday, ministers and officials from the UK government and the devolved administrations were given a scientific briefing at a meeting of the emergency COBRA committee, chaired by Mr Gove.

Officials from the four nations of the UK also agreed to work together on a joint approach to possible restrictions over the Christmas period.

Wales is currently within its own 17-day “firebreak” lockdown, with First Minister Mark Drakeford setting out the new rules that will apply once the shutdown ends.