Boris Johnson is to urge office workers to get back to their desks.
Amid growing confidence that Covid will not spark further lockdowns, the Prime Minister will use his Tory conference speech tomorrow to encourage a return to the workplace.
‘He believes very strongly in the value of face-to-face working,’ a senior source said. ‘It is critical for the training and development of young people. How can you learn a new job on Zoom?’
Meanwhile Home Secretary Priti Patel will today announce plans to hit eco-warriors with a new type of Asbo in an attempt to halt their motorway protests.
And Justice Secretary Dominic Raab will a unveil a deal to force criminals in ‘chain gangs’ to clear rubbish from waterways.
Mr Johnson launched an ill-fated attempt to get office staff back to their desks last year, which was wrecked by the emergence of the second wave of Covid.
Scientific advisers have pressed him not to repeat the exercise this year because working from home is one of the most effective ways of slowing the spread of the virus.
Instead the Government left it up to employers to encourage a ‘gradual return to the workplace’.
But a second Tory source said ministers were now hopeful they would not have to issue another work from home order this winter.
‘You can never rule anything out with Covid,’ the source said. ‘But we are now in early October and hospitalisations are still running at manageable levels.
‘We are not at the point of anyone thinking about Plan B.
‘Even if we get to that point, it would start with things that cause relatively little disruption, such as mandatory masks and Covid certification.’
Amid growing confidence that Covid will not spark further lockdowns, the Prime Minister will use his Tory conference speech tomorrow to encourage a return to the workplace
In other developments at the Tory conference:
- The number of offenders forced to wear electronic tags will double under a major initiative from Mr Raab;
- Rishi Sunak ruled out tax cuts until public finances were on a ‘sustainable footing’;
- Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries questioned whether the BBC would still exist in ten years’ time;
- Mr Johnson pledged that electricity will come entirely from green sources by 2035;
- Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng rejected calls for more visas for foreign workers;
- Pig farmers warned of ‘disaster’ as they protested outside the conference over a shortage of butchers;
- A party member was suspended after a businesswoman said she had been ‘violently assaulted’ in a bar;
- Sir Iain Duncan Smith was hit on the head with a traffic cone by Left-wing protesters chanting ‘Tory scum’;
- Michael Gove signalled a huge shift on planning policy.
Powers to reinstate the work from home order have been kept in reserve in the Government’s contingency plans for Covid this winter.
But ministers believe that. So far, Britain’s wall of vaccination is holding up well against the virus.
While cases remain high, with 35,077 new infections recorded yesterday, hospital admissions remain relatively low. Admissions are averaging just over 700 per day and falling – far below the predictions by government modellers, who said admissions would rise to between 2,000 and 7,000 a day this month.
Tory demands to get more people back to the office have intensified since all legal Covid restrictions were lifted in July.
Former cabinet minister Jake Berry yesterday demanded that the Government set an example by ordering middle class civil servants back to Whitehall, joking that many were ‘woke-ing from home’.
‘He believes very strongly in the value of face-to-face working,’ a senior source said. ‘It is critical for the training and development of young people. How can you learn a new job on Zoom?’ Pictured: The Tube in London
Mr Berry told a fringe event: ‘We have to end the Civil Service “woke-ing” from home – sorry, I mean working from home, but, let’s be honest, it often is woke-ing.’ Official ‘work from home’ Whitehall guidance was removed on July 19 and the Government told businesses they expected ‘a gradual return over the summer’.
However, insiders said Whitehall had only seen a slight increase in staff back at their desks, with numbers still ‘pretty low’.
Whitehall sources said that almost half of officials at the department for education are now back at their desks. But at the Home Office the figure is closer to 20 per cent, while for some departments, including the Ministry of Housing it is barely half that.
In September, job adverts for roles at HM Treasury revealed that staff would be allowed to work from home in a hybrid pattern on a permanent basis, spending an average of two to three days a week in the office.
Asked about Mr Berry’s comments, Boris Johnson’s official spokesman defended the Civil Service but emphasised the importance of ‘working in person’.
He said: ‘The position of the Government remains that we want to see a steady return of the public to working in person, and that’s the expectation of the Civil Service, that’s what we’ve seen throughout the summer.’
He said civil servants ‘have been able to deliver for the public whilst working from home’, but added: ‘That said, as the Prime Minister has said repeatedly, there are significant benefits to being in work, to office working, and those should not be discounted. That’s why we are encouraging all employers to start steadily bringing in their workforce, as we are at this stage of the epidemic.’
Rishi Sunak vows to ‘throw the kitchen sink’ at getting young people back into work after furlough as he unveils £500m help package
- Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled new £500million plan to help people find work
- Mr Sunak said the Government is ‘throwing the kitchen sink’ at helping people
- Comes after the £70billion furlough scheme finally finished amid job loss fears
- An estimated one million workers were still on furlough when the scheme ended
by Jack Maidment, deputy political editor for MailOnline
Rishi Sunak today insisted the Government is ‘throwing the kitchen sink’ at helping people get a new job as he unveiled a £500million package to support furloughed workers.
The Chancellor said he warned at the start of the coronavirus pandemic that ‘it wasn’t going to be possible for me or quite frankly any chancellor to save every single person’s job’.
He said the end of the £70billion furlough programme will result in some job losses.
But he said people should be ‘reassured’ that ministers are doing everything they can to help the unemployed back into work.
Furlough is credited with saving millions of jobs during the Covid-19 crisis but an estimated one million workers were still on the programme when it finally closed last week, sparking fears of a surge in unemployment.
In his keynote speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester today, the Chancellor confirmed new funding to ‘prioritise’ job support for workers coming off furlough.
The £500million extension to the Government’s so-called ‘Plan for Jobs’ will also provide tailored packages for others hit by the pandemic, including the young and workers aged over 50.
Rishi Sunak today insisted the Government is ‘throwing the kitchen sink’ at helping people get a new job as he unveiled a new £500million package to help furloughed workers. The Chancellor is pictured alongside Boris Johnson in Manchester this morning
Mr Sunak said the end of the £70billion furlough programme would result in some job losses. But he said people should be ‘reassured’ that ministers are doing everything they can to help the unemployed back into work
Mr Sunak was grilled this morning on the impact closing furlough will have on the unemployment rate.
The Chancellor told Sky News: ‘I said right at the beginning of this crisis it wasn’t going to be possible for me or quite frankly any chancellor to save every single person’s job.
‘But what I do know is that the interventions we put in place have made an enormous difference.
‘As I said, at the beginning of this crisis people thought the unemployment rate would get to 12 per cent, that’s millions and millions of people out of work.
‘In fact the unemployment rate has now been falling for about six months in a row, it is under five per cent, we have a lower unemployment rate here in the UK than America, Canada, France, Spain, Italy amongst others and there are record numbers of job vacancies.
‘So I think the plan is working. Of course some people sadly have lost their job and will lose their job.
‘But that’s why I want them to be reassured that we are throwing literally the kitchen sink at helping them get a new job, new skills, new opportunities and we know that that’s been working over the past 12 to 18 months and that’s why we are doing more of it today.’
Mr Sunak last night declared he is ‘ready to double-down’ on his promise to ‘do whatever it takes’ to recover from Covid-19.
He said the furlough scheme protected 11million jobs and the UK is ‘experiencing one of the strongest and fastest recoveries of any major economy in the world’.
He added: ‘But the job is not done yet and I want to make sure our economy is fit for the future, and that means providing the support and skills people need to get into work and get on in life.’
The Chancellor used his speech in Manchester to set out his vision of shaping the economy around ‘the forces of science, technology and imagination’.
He pledged to ‘make the United Kingdom the most exciting place on the planet’ through enhanced infrastructure, improved skills and scientific investment.
Today’s jobs package will see those coming off furlough prioritised for jobs support during the next three months.
Measures will include mock interviews and help with writing CVs and applying for jobs.
During the pandemic, the £70billion furlough scheme is credited with saving millions of jobs
Under the measures, the Kickstart scheme helping young people on Universal Credit will be extended to next March.
In its first five months, the scheme has found work placements for 76,900 young people.
The £3,000 incentive for new apprentices will also be extended until the end of January.
Treasury sources said the over-50s have seen the second largest fall in employment during the pandemic and are ‘much less likely’ to return to the workplace than younger colleagues. They will also be offered tailored support to find a new job.
The Treasury said more than £500million of new funding will be used for the package, coming from the education plus the work and pensions departments.
Last night the Confederation of British Industry welcomed the package. Chief policy director Matthew Fell said: ‘Businesses are committed to playing their full part in training and re-skilling the workforce of tomorrow as we move towards a new economy.’
The announcement of the investment comes after the Chancellor pushed ahead with the end of furlough and a cut to Universal Credit.
A £20-a-week increase in the benefit introduced during the Covid crisis is due to finish on Wednesday.
Since the start of the pandemic, furlough has helped pay the wages of 11.6million workers at a cost of almost £70billion.
Mr Fell added: ‘Businesses will welcome the Chancellor’s plan for jobs pivoting from furlough to economic recovery.
An estimated one million workers were still on furlough when the programme closed last week
‘With record vacancies and widespread labour shortages, this package’s success will be measured by its ability to get people back into work.’
Labour’s work and pensions spokesman Jonathan Reynolds said last night: ‘The Government’s struggling Plan for Jobs has failed to hit its original targets; it is not creating the number of jobs needed and has failed to address the supply chain crisis Britain is experiencing.
‘Giving himself an extended deadline will do nothing to compensate for the Chancellor’s tax rises, cost of living crisis and cuts to universal credit which are set to hammer millions of working families.
‘Labour would create new jobs with our plan to buy, make and sell more in Britain to get our economy firing on all cylinders.’
Eco-fanatics are set to be hit with Asbos for blocking roads and face up to six months in JAIL under new law to be tabled by Home Secretary Priti Patel keep Britain on the move
By DAVID BARRETT, Home Affairs Correspondent, For The Daily Mail
Eco-fanatics will be hit with a new type of Asbo in a fresh attempt to bring their chaotic road protests to an end, Priti Patel will announce today.
The Home Secretary will reveal plans for measures to make it an offence to repeatedly obstruct roads or cause other delays.
The Criminal Disruption Prevention Orders – dubbed ‘Asbos for crusties’ – are intended to be quicker to enforce than the Government’s current approach, which has been based on High Court injunctions.
In a separate move, Miss Patel will tell the Conservative Party conference that a specific new offence will be created to deal with protests by Extinction Rebellion protests and its offshoot Insulate Britain.
The Home Secretary will reveal plans for measures to make it an offence to repeatedly obstruct roads or cause other delays
The Criminal Disruption Prevention Orders – dubbed ‘Asbos for crusties’ – are intended to be quicker to enforce than the Government’s current approach, which has been based on High Court injunctions. Pictured: he Hangar Lane gyratory on the A40 on Monday
It will be made a crime to ‘interfere with critical national infrastructure’, including major roads, railways, seaports, power stations and newspaper printing presses.
The new crime will carry up to six months’ imprisonment and will be dealt with at magistrates’ courts only – after sympathetic juries acquitted a series of XR activists in the Crown courts.
It will give police new options when arresting offenders who block motorways or other sites, and make it more likely that protesters will face jail.
A Conservative source said police would ‘now have no excuse’ for not arresting and charging Insulate Britain troublemakers. However, the new powers will take months to come into force.
‘Freedom to protest is a fundamental right our party will forever fight to uphold,’ Miss Patel will tell the conference in Manchester later today. ‘But it must be within the law.
‘Measures already going through Parliament will ensure these criminals can be brought to justice for the disruption they are causing. But we are going further to close down the legal loopholes exploited by these offenders.
‘I will increase the maximum penalties for disrupting a motorway; criminalise interference with key infrastructures such as roads, railways and our free press; and give the police and courts new powers to deal with the small minority of offender’s intent on travelling around the country, causing disruption and misery across our communities.’
Another new criminal offence of ‘disrupting a highway’ – announced earlier this week – will carry up to six months’ imprisonment. It will apply to motorways, A-roads and all types of local roads, a Conservative source said.
The Asbo-style orders, if breached, could carry up to two years’ imprisonment for contempt of court, it is understood.
Sources said it would be targeted at ‘a small number of prolific offenders who travel around the country, causing disruption and misery to others’.
They would be enforced on individuals with a history of disruption or where there is ‘intelligence suggesting they are likely to commit a criminal offence from attending particular protests’.
Crucially, police would be able to arrest individuals on the spot if they breached an order that had been imposed on them by a court. Anti-social behaviour orders, or Asbos, were introduced by Tony Blair’s Labour government in 1998.
They were imposed on yobs whose behaviour ’caused or was likely to cause harm, harassment, alarm or distress’. Breaching the civil orders carried up to five years’ imprisonment. They were repealed by the Tories in 2014.
All Miss Patel’s new measures will be introduced to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill next month. If approved by Parliament, they are expected to be in force by spring next year.
The moves come after weeks of protests which the police seemed powerless to stop.
Insulate Britain’s campaign of roadblocks entered a fourth week yesterday, as activists targeted key locations in London.
It will be made a crime to ‘interfere with critical national infrastructure’, including major roads, railways, seaports, power stations and newspaper printing presses. Pictured: Wandsworth Bridge on Monday
They have repeatedly defied an interim injunction, granted by the High Court last month, which prevented named protesters from blocking the M25.
Ministers are now understood to be seeking a more wide-ranging injunction, which could serve as a stop-gap before the new powers are introduced.
In her conference speech today, Miss Patel will also insist she has ‘redoubled’ her efforts to tackle violence against women and girls following Sarah Everard’s murder.
The Home Secretary refuses to utter the name of Miss Everard’s killer, former police officer Wayne Couzens, who was handed a whole life sentence last week.
‘I know all our thoughts remain with Sarah Everard’s family and friends. Her murderer, whose name I refuse to repeat, was a monster,’ Miss Patel will say.
‘His explicit intention was to instil fear and terror in women and girls. I say this as Home Secretary, but also as a woman.
‘Such unconscionable crimes and acts of violence against women and girls have no place in our society.’
Miss Patel will also set out her determination to tackle the Channel migrant crisis.
She will say: ‘My New Plan for Immigration is already making its way through Parliament.
‘At the heart of this Plan is a simple principle. Control. That is not unreasonable.
‘France is a safe country, one not riven by war or conflict. There is no reason why any asylum seeker should come to the United Kingdom directly from France.’