By Tim Le Couilliard, Newgate Public Affairs
The Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden made his first appearance at the daily Downing Street briefing today providing an update on the leisure, charities and recreational sectors. Noting that since the start of the outbreak the focus has been, inevitably, on the health implications (with another 363 sadly dying today), Dowden provided an update on the “things that give our life added meaning” citing sport, art, tourism, charities music and theatres.
Dowden started by announcing that the Queen’s birthday honours list has been delayed until the Autumn so that the “heroes” of the coronavirus can be properly recognised and celebrated. The newly styled ‘Sir’ Captain Tom Moore was given a special mention for his fundraising achievements. In addition to ‘Sir’ Tom’s £33 million, Dowden went on to announce that the British public has donated over £800 million through national fundraising campaigns since the start of the outbreak, with more being raised through local fundraising campaigns. On top of supporting campaigns such as the BBC’s Big Night In, that raised over £70 million, the government is this week opening up the Coronavirus Community Support Fund, to support smaller charities with an initial £200 million of government funding. Dowden also announced that £150 million will now be released from dormant accounts to help social enterprises provide credit to people who are financially vulnerable and to charities tackling youth unemployment.
Coming on to the hotly anticipated update on live sports and the arts, Dowden stated that finding “crowd-free ways to navigate the coronavirus” has been the biggest challenge to the recreation and leisure sectors. This has led to the setting up of the “Renewal Taskforce” to help these sectors bounce back. Made up of the “brightest and the best of the creative tech and sporting worlds”, the taskforce will be advising on new and “different” ways of getting them up and running.
Sadly, Dowden stopped short of announcing the return top-flight sport, but did note the return to training of many professional athletes. When they do return, Dowden predicts that we “will appreciate them that much more”.
Besides from the press conference today the Prime Minister announced at PMQs that he has “growing confidence” in the test and track trace system being ready by the 1st June, stating that by then there will be 25,000 human trackers. There was also a noteworthy question at PMQs on Chinese involvement in UK supply chains with MPs being told to expect to hear “in the next few weeks” on measures to “protect our technological base […] from countries that may have ulterior motives.”
We might also see MPs returning to Westminster on the 1st June, with MPs voting by 350 to 258 to discontinue remote participation of the Commons. The Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has called for parliament to return on the 1st June, which is the same date that the government is intending schools to return. Both proposals have been met with opposition, with SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford describing the return to Parliament as “insane” and the Speaker of the House, Lindsey Hoyle, too making his opposition to the proposal clear.
Also in Westminster today, Governor Andrew Bailey appeared in front of the Treasury Select Committee, in which he stated the Bank of England “is not ruling out” negative interest rates.