Speech: Business Secretary appeals to everyone to stay calm and carry on the good work

Our country and economy need all our support in tackling the coronavirus pandemic. This is a shared national effort and workers and businesses, across the country, have answered the call to action.

Workers across all industries and sectors are making a hugely valued and critical contribution to the resilience of our nation. Whether it is the millions of people working from home, or the army of workers in distribution centres, supermarkets, transport, construction and manufacturing across the country, you are all playing your part in keeping Britain moving, so that as a nation we can support our fantastic NHS workers on the frontline of this pandemic.

Worker Safety

I want to recognise and pay tribute to those efforts. We appreciate just how tough the situation is. The government has asked people to take unprecedented action by staying at home other than for four exceptions — to buy essentials, for one form of exercise a day, to attend medical appointments, or for work which cannot be done from home.

Safety has always been our number-one priority — and throughout this crisis, we have followed the scientific and medical advice. The government has provided guidance on how those who cannot do their work from home can continue to operate safely in the workplace. I want everyone to be assured that if they are in their workplace, keeping our economy going, they know what they need to do to play their part in reducing the spread of coronavirus. Many employers are already taking measures to ensure the safety of their workers.

Supermarkets, for instance, have put down two-metre markings on shop floors, installed protective screens for cashiers and are disinfecting stations for trolleys and baskets. Construction firms have changed shift patterns and numbers on sites to maintain social-distancing rules. Without the valiant efforts of builders and engineers, who have worked flat out, vital infrastructure such as the NHS Nightingale hospital would not have been built in record time.

Stepping up

We have also seen gin distilleries and breweries like Brewdog start developing hand sanitiser to help meet the unprecedented demand at this time, and staff in distribution centres are keeping the public stocked up on essential items.

These are just a few examples of businesses and workers from across the UK that are stepping up to protect our people and economy. It reinforces the fact that businesses are a force for good as we tackle the coronavirus pandemic. It is crucial that when we overcome this crisis, as in time we will, the UK’s economy is ready to bounce back and businesses are in a good position to move forward.

And all of those who have had to go to work — to stack shelves, to keep phone lines connected, to drive our trains or to build vital infrastructure — deserve the understanding of others as they go about their work. Instances of abuse being thrown at these people are completely unacceptable — they are keeping us safe, keeping us fed and keeping us connected.

While our fantastic NHS workers and the wider carer community are rightly at the forefront of our minds, I want to pay tribute to all those who are working to support them by keeping our economy going. You are doing your bit to deliver for our country. Times are tough — and we have harder times ahead of us. But I know that, together, we will pull through.

Open consultation: Heat networks: building a market framework

In order to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, nearly all heat in buildings will need to be decarbonised. Heat networks are a crucial aspect of the path towards decarbonising heat.

In this consultation, we are seeking views on policy options for regulating heat networks to protect consumers and ensure fair pricing, while supporting market growth and the development of low-carbon networks.

This consultation sets out:

  • measures to increase levels of investment in the sector, such as provision of market information and support for strengthening local approaches that will help generate additional demand certainty on projects
  • policy options for establishing a market framework to deliver important consumer protections, equivalent to those offered to gas and electricity customers, as the market expands
  • proposals relating to the choice of regulator, the regulatory approach, enforcement powers and step-in arrangements
  • proposals for protecting consumers including on transparency, pricing and quality of service standards
  • proposals for developing technical standards and certification and accreditation processes to improve the quality, cost and reliability of heat networks
  • proposals for giving heat networks equivalent rights and powers (such as undertaker or statutory access rights) compared with other utilities
  • proposals to drive decarbonisation of heat networks and use of waste-heat sources

We have also published:

  • an impact assessment – providing indicative costs of each regulatory option considered
  • the International review of heat networks market frameworks – commissioned by BEIS from CAG consultants – an important resource to understand how other countries have approached heat network regulation

Extension to consultation end date

In the light of COVID-19, we have extended the consultation period to give people more time to respond.

Press release: £20 million for ambitious technologies to build UK resilience following coronavirus outbreak

  • Technology and R&D businesses to develop innovations that encourage new ways of working and ensure continued productivity across key UK industries
  • government boost to build resilience in the UK economy, helping to protect against long-term impacts of the coronavirus outbreak and future incidents
  • new innovations will support sectors ranging from delivery services, food manufacturing, retail and transport

Businesses could help boost the UK’s resilience to the long-term impact of the coronavirus outbreak and similar situations in the future, as a result of £20 million government funding announced today (Friday 3 April).

Grants of up to £50,000 will be available to technology and research-focussed businesses to develop new ways of working and help build resilience in industries such as delivery services, food manufacturing, retail and transport, as well as support people at home in circumstances like those during the coronavirus outbreak.

Innovations could include:

  • new technology allowing retailers to respond better to sudden spikes of consumer demand and improve deliveries across the UK
  • new services for families to connect with and remotely monitor their elderly or vulnerable relatives, giving people peace of mind that their loved ones are receiving the services they require such as food deliveries, doctor’s appointments and paying bills
  • creating education tools which seamlessly integrate the classroom with the kitchen table, allowing teachers to remotely set dynamic tasks, support vulnerable children and make certain no child is left behind

Science Minister Amanda Solloway said:

The response of researchers and businesses to the coronavirus outbreak have been remarkable. This new investment will support the development of technologies that can help industries, communities and individuals adapt to new ways of working when situations like this, and other incidents, arise.

Dr Ian Campbell, Executive Chair Innovate UK, said:

The COVID-19 situation is not just a health emergency, but also one that affects the economy and society. With that in mind, Innovate UK has launched this rapid response competition today seeking smart ideas from innovators. These could be proposals to help the distribution of goods, educate children remotely, keep families digitally connected and even new ideas to stream music and entertainment. The UK needs a great national effort and Innovate UK is helping by unleashing the power of innovation for people and businesses in need.

The proposals will be reviewed as part of a competition launched by Innovate UK, seeking the best new ideas from businesses.

All the projects will begin by June 2020 and will last up to 6 months, with products and services expected to be available to the public towards the end of this year.

Speech: Business Secretary’s statement on coronavirus (COVID-19): 1 April 2020

Good afternoon and thank you for joining us for the daily briefing on our fight against coronavirus.

I am joined today by Dr Yvonne Doyle who is the medical director of Public Health England.

Before Yvonne provides an update on the latest data from our COBR coronavirus fact file, I would like to update you on the steps that we are taking to defeat this pandemic.

Our step-by-step action plan is aiming to slow the spread of the virus, so fewer people need hospital treatment at any one time, protecting the ability of the NHS to cope.

Throughout our response to coronavirus, we have been following the scientific and medical advice. We have been deliberate in our actions, taking the right steps at the right time.

We are also taking unprecedented action to increase NHS capacity by dramatically expanding the number of beds, key staff and life-saving equipment on the front-line to provide the care when people need it most.

The daily figures show that a total of 152,979 people in the UK have now been tested for coronavirus.

Of those, 29,474 have tested positive.

The number of people admitted to hospital in England with coronavirus symptoms is now 10,767, with 3,915 of those in London and 1,918 in the Midlands.

Of those hospitalised in the UK, sadly 2,352 have died. This is an increase of 563 fatalities since yesterday. The youngest of them was just 13 years old.

All our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of those who have lost their lives.

This is more tragic evidence that this virus does not discriminate.

The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest threat our country has faced in decades, and we are not alone. All over the world we are seeing the devastating impact of this invisible killer.

We recognise the extreme disruption the necessary actions we are asking people to take are having on their lives, businesses, jobs and the nation’s economy.

And I want to thank everyone across our whole country for the huge effort that is being made, collectively, in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

To the frontline workers treating and caring for patients, the people delivering supplies to their neighbours, and the millions staying at home: thank you. You are protecting the NHS and saving lives.

And I want to thank businesses too.

Through your support for your workers and your communities, and through your willingness to support our health service, you are making a real difference.

Whether it’s INEOS building a new hand sanitiser plant near Middlesbrough in just ten days;

Or UCL engineers working with Mercedes Formula One to build new Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machines, which help patients to breathe more easily;

Or broadband providers giving their customers unlimited data to stay connected;

Or indeed London’s ExCel Centre being converted into the NHS Nightingale Hospital with space for 4,000 patients.

These are just a few of the examples of businesses from across our great nation supporting lifesaving work.

There are also thousands of businesses, large and small, which have worked with staff to ensure they are supported in the days and weeks ahead.

Whether that is through ensuring PHE guidelines are followed on site, implementing furlough schemes, carrying over annual leave, or providing the means to work from home.

I want to convey my heartfelt thanks to all of those businesses, up and down the country, which are working to keep our economy going.

So that when this crisis passes, and it will, we are ready to bounce back.

Our businesses are doing all they can to support our people, and I want to make it clear that government, in turn, will do all it can to support our businesses.

We have taken unprecedented action to support firms, safeguard jobs and protect the economy.

From today businesses will start benefiting from £22 billion in the form of business rates relief. And grants of up to £25,000 which are being paid into the bank accounts of the smallest high street firms.

On Saturday, I said that we had provided funds to councils in England for grants to small businesses.

As of today, these local authorities have received more than £12 billion.

This afternoon I held a call with hundreds of local authorities across England and made clear that this money must reach businesses as quickly as possible. And I know that businesses across England have already started to receive these grants.

We know high street banks are working really hard to support the UK through this period, including through mortgage holidays and increased credit facilities.

Loans for businesses are also being issued through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme since it came into operation last week.

The Chancellor, together with the Bank of England and Financial Conduct Authority, wrote to the chief executives of the UK banks to urge them to make sure that the benefits of the Loan Scheme are passed through to businesses and consumers.

And it would be completely unacceptable if any banks were unfairly refusing funds to good businesses in financial difficulty.

Just as the taxpayer stepped in to help the banks back in 2008, we will work with the banks to do everything they can to repay that favour and support the businesses and people of the United Kingdom in their time of need.

Of course, this is a brand new scheme and, as with all new schemes, it will not be perfect from the outset.

We are listening all the time. And in response to concerns that we’ve heard from businesses, we are looking at ways in which we can ensure they get the support they need. The Chancellor will be saying more on this in the coming days.

It is crucial that when we overcome this crisis, as in time we will, that businesses are in a good position to move forward.

Times are tough, and we have harder times ahead of us.

But I know that together, we will pull through.

Press release: COP26 postponement

The COP26 UN climate change conference set to take place in Glasgow in November has been postponed due to COVID-19.

This decision has been taken by representatives of the COP Bureau of the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), with the UK and its Italian partners.

Dates for a rescheduled conference in 2021, hosted in Glasgow by the UK in partnership with Italy, will be set out in due course following further discussion with parties.

In light of the ongoing, worldwide effects of COVID-19, holding an ambitious, inclusive COP26 in November 2020 is no longer possible.

Rescheduling will ensure all parties can focus on the issues to be discussed at this vital conference and allow more time for the necessary preparations to take place. We will continue to work with all involved to increase climate ambition, build resilience and lower emissions.

COP26 President-Designate and Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma said:

The world is currently facing an unprecedented global challenge and countries are rightly focusing their efforts on saving lives and fighting COVID-19. That is why we have decided to reschedule COP26.

We will continue working tirelessly with our partners to deliver the ambition needed to tackle the climate crisis and I look forward to agreeing a new date for the conference.

UN Climate Change Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa said:

COVID-19 is the most urgent threat facing humanity today, but we cannot forget that climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity over the long term.

Soon, economies will restart. This is a chance for nations to recover better, to include the most vulnerable in those plans, and a chance to shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean, green, healthy, just, safe and more resilient.

In the meantime, we continue to support and to urge nations to significantly boost climate ambition in line with the Paris Agreement.

Italian Minister for the Environment, Land and Sea Protection, Sergio Costa, said:

Whilst we have decided to postpone COP26, including the Pre-COP and ‘Youth for the Climate’ event, we remain fully committed to meeting the challenge of climate change.

Tackling climate change requires strong, global and ambitious action. Participation from the younger generations is imperative, and we are determined to host the ‘Youth for the Climate’ event, together with the Pre-COP and outreach events.

We will continue to work with our British partners to deliver a successful COP26.

COP25 President, Minister Carolina Schmidt, said:

The decision of the Bureau on the postponement of COP26 is unfortunately a needed measure to protect all delegates and observers.

Our determination is to make sure that the momentum for climate ambition will continue, particularly for the preparation and submissions of new NDCs this year

Guidance: Coronavirus (COVID-19): business support grant funding – guidance for local authorities

Published 24 March 2020
Last updated 1 April 2020 + show all updates

  1. Updated information on state aid, monitoring and reporting requirements, post payment checks, eligibility of charities.

  2. Version 3 published with updates on State Aid, monitoring and reporting requirements, new annexes on state aid, Spotlight, and post payment checks, clarification of eligibility of charities.

  3. Paragraph 17 updated to: Hereditaments that were not eligible for percentage SBRR relief (including those eligible for the Small Business Rate Multiplier) are excluded.

  4. First published.

National Statistics: Building materials and components statistics: March 2020

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