Monday, November 30, 2020

Carol of the day: "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly" (King's College, Cambridge 2008)

A fairer deal for Britain's Farmers

Today the government is setting out plans to deliver a better, fairer system for England’s farmers after we leave the Common Agricultural Policy at the end of this year, transforming the way Britain supports famers and helping to protect our environment for future generations. 

  • At the end of the year Britain's transition period with the EU will end, and we will have the opportunity to replace the top-down, bureaucratic Common Agricultural Policy with a new system that truly works for the England’s farmers.
  • The government has worked with farmers over the past few years as we develop this plan. And today a roadmap has been published, outlining the new system which is tailored in the interests of England’s farmers, helping them to deliver for the environment, animal welfare and climate change whilst also running more profitable, productive and sustainable businesses.
  • Rather than the prescriptive, top down rules of the EU era, our new system will support the choices that farmers and land managers take; helping us to build back greener, meet our Net Zero commitment and deliver sustainable farming.

The Telecomms Security Bill

Today the governments' Telecommunications Security Bill is being debated in Parliament. This bill aims to provide the powers needed to boost the security standards of the UK’s telecoms networks and remove the threat of high risk vendors.

  • The UK faces an ever-present threat from cyber-attack, and we must ensure that our critical telecoms networks, that we rely on every day, are protected.
  • That is why the government is introducing a Telecommunications Security Bill, which will boost the security standards of the entire UK telecoms network, as well as giving us new powers to completely remove high risk vendors such as Huawei from our 5G networks, starting with a hard deadline for mobile network operators to stop installing Huawei equipment from September 2021, and the launch of an ambitious new Diversification Strategy that will find homegrown ways to open up the worldwide 5G market.
  • Both the government and companies like BT are investing billions to roll out 5G and gigabit broadband across the country. BT is investing twelve billion pounds in Openreach's full fibre network. The benefits from this massive investment can only be realised if we have full confidence in the security and resilience of our networks.

I am writing this post in my capacity as a Conservative activist. In the interests of full transparency, let me declare that I am employed by Openreach, which is part of the BT group. The information above is based on a briefing by the Conservative research department and does not necessarily reflect the views of BT or Openreach.

Backing British business to make medical and diagnostic equipment

Today the Prime Minister  launches a £20 million fund to boost medicine and diagnostic equipment manufacturing in the UK, ensuring greater resilience in our domestic supply chains and creating new jobs and economic opportunities as we build back better.

  • This pandemic has shown the importance of having a strong domestic medicines and diagnostics manufacturing industry, and we want to ensure that our supply chains are even more resilient in the future.
  • That is why the Prime Minister is launching a new £20 million Medicines and Diagnostic Manufacturing Transformation Fund, which will open-up investment opportunities for medicines manufacturers in England, Scotland and Wales – improving our domestic medicine supply chains and creating thousands of highly skilled jobs in the process.
  • This will help put UK companies ahead of global competitors in advanced medicines manufacturing, while helping them respond to future healthcare needs, increasing the overall health resilience of the UK.

The PM's letter to MPs about the COVID tiers

Over the weekend the Prime Minister wrote to Members of Parliament, setting out how it is proposed to implement the Covid Winter Plan and safeguard Parliament’s role.  

  • While infection levels have started to fall, they are still at a high level, and the pressure on hospitals remains severe. 
  • A tougher tiered system is necessary if we are to keep the virus under control, avoid overwhelming the NHS or prevent another national lockdown which is more damaging and restrictive than the tiered system. 
  • On 2 December, national restrictions will end, as the government promised they would, and we will return to strengthened tiers set out in the Covid-19 Winter Plan, subject to parliamentary approval the day before. 
  • Ahead of the vote, the Prime Minister has confirmed: 

    • Parliament will have the opportunity to confirm its support for these measures after we review their impact at the end of January. 
    • There will be an opportunity to review all tier allocations at the first review point on 16 December. 
    • The government will set out publicly the circumstances that need to change in each region for it to be considered to move down a tier. 
    • The government will update the COVID-19 public data daily dashboard to include all available relevant data. 
    • Ahead of the vote on Tuesday, further analysis will be published of the health, economic and social impacts of Covid and the measures taken to suppress them. 
    • The government and, I hope all of us so far as is safely and legally possible,  will continue to support hospitality and hard-hit businesses. This will include a temporary relaxation in shop opening hours this Christmas and throughout January, allowing extended hours for shoppers on every high street Monday to Saturday. 
  • Only by keeping the virus under control through these local measures will we be able to see friends and family over Christmas in a relatively safe way while managing the threat the virus still poses. As mass testing and vaccines are rolled out through winter and into the spring, the need for even localised restrictions will gradually reduce – and life can once again return closer to normality.

Quote of the day 30th November 2020


Sunday, November 29, 2020

The Green Cross Code Man (Oh, and Darth Vader) RIP

The actor David Prowse MBE, who I remember as the Green Cross Code man - has died at the age of 85. That is the role of which he was most proud and for which he was honoured by the Queen, although he is probably better known to many as the man inside the helmet, the actor who portrayed Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. 

His voice was replaced by that of James Earl Jones, and his face at the very end of the trilogy by that of Sebastian Shaw, but it was David Prowse who filled the black robes and helmet and provided the looming, sinister onscreen presence which dominates the films.

But as has been noted today, the man who played one of the most memorable iconic villains of all time was most proud of, and was honoured for, his work helping to save the lives of children. That is what I will most remember him for.

Rest in Peace.

Keeping up the fight against COVID-19


Writing in the Mail on Sunday, the Prime Minister has set out that as we come out of national restrictions on Wednesday we cannot afford to let the virus take hold again.

The Prime Minister has also written to Members of Parliament setting out how we will implement the Covid Winter Plan and safeguard Parliament’s role.  

  • While infection levels have started to fall, they are still at a high level, and the pressure on hospitals remains severe. 
  • A tougher tiered system is necessary if we are to keep the virus under control, avoid overwhelming the NHS or prevent another national lockdown which is more damaging and restrictive than the tiered system.
  • On 2 December, national restrictions will end, as the government promised they would, and we will return to strengthened tiers set out in the Covid-19 Winter Plan, subject to parliamentary approval the day before. 
  • Ahead of the vote, the Prime Minister has confirmed:

    • Parliament will have the opportunity to confirm its support for these measures after we review their impact at the end of January.
    • There will be an opportunity to review all tier allocations at the first review point on 16 December.
    • The government will set out publicly the circumstances that need to change in each region for it to be considered to move down a tier.
    • The government will also update the COVID-19 public data daily dashboard to include all available relevant data.
    • Ahead of the vote on Tuesday, the ggovernment ill publish further analysis of the health, economic and social impacts of Covid and the measures taken to suppress them.
    • The government - and I hope all those of us who can - will continue to support hospitality and hard-hit businesses.
  • Only by keeping the virus under control through these local measures will we be able to see friends and family over Christmas in a relatively safe way while managing the threat the virus still poses. As mass testing and vaccines are rolled out through winter and into the spring, the need for even localised restrictions will gradually reduce – and life can once again return closer to normality.

Carol of the day for the first Sunday in Advent: Charpentier, "Salve Puerule"

Quote of the day for Advent Sunday


Advent Sunday 2020 (29th November 2020)

Happy New Year!

No, that isn't a typo or a mistake. Advent Sunday is the first day of the Church's year.

Today we reach the end of a truly awful ecclesiastical year, and near the end of an equally awful calendar one - 2020 has been a year the likes of which none of us will ever want to repeat, one of the most difficult and challenging around the world that most of us can ever remember.

The first Sunday in Advent, Advent Sunday, as well as being the first day of a new Church year is also the official start of the run up to the Christmas season.

Of course, the shops have been full of Christmas stuff for months - this time since even before Halloween - and I would normally make a few mildly caustic comments about that, but not this year. The retail sector has been having a terrible time - as what is happening to Arcadia shows, from the largest national retail chain down to he smallest corner shop -  and I can't blame any retailer for taking all possible safe and legal measures to get as much business as possible, in order to try to keep their businesses afloat and as many as practical of their employees in jobs.

But now we have finally reached the point where it is officially appropriate to display Christmas messages and decorations, sing Christmas carols, and look forward to Christmas.

Advent is about looking forward to someone or something who is coming: for Christians it means the baby Jesus. This winter we are also looking forward in hope that the brilliant scientific teams who have been working on a treatment which might liberate us from this dreadful pandemic will finally have a safe, effective vaccine approved and ready to be issued. For a little longer we still have to follow the social distancing rules to protect one another but hope is on the horizon.

I will post a formal Christmas greeting later in the Advent season, but as we near the end of this ghastly time I hope that everyone who reads this - yes, I really do mean everyone - finds some peace and happiness over this Christmas season.

Here is a link to a lovely Advent service published on Facebook this morning by my local church, St James' Whitehaven, and the Whitehaven mission community.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Foreign Aid

Almost all of the world's richer nations have at some point agreed to work towards a United Nations target to spend 0.7% of their GDP on aid to people in the poorest countries of the world.

In 2013, under a Conservative-led government, Britain became the first G7 country to actually hit that target and we have met it every year since then.

For the last seven years Britain has been one of very few rich countries - about half a dozen - which actually met or exceeded that target in direct government development aid.

Britain is also the only NATO country which has hit both the 0.7% aid target and the NATO target to spend 2% of GDP on defence. Britain takes our international obligations for both aid and defence as seriously as any other nation and more than most. 

On top of government aid, the British people as individuals are also some of the most generous in the charitable aid they give voluntarily on top of the aid paid for out of our taxes, which makes Britain one of the most generous rich countries on the planet in terms of the help we give to the world's poorest.

So it is with great regret that during the present domestic economic emergency the government has made the decision to temporarily reduce international aid spending to 0.5 per cent of GDP. 

  • At this critical time, we need to prioritise jobs, livelihoods and our public services.
  • In 2015, the Conservatives wrote into law a commitment to spend 0.7 per cent of our national income on overseas aid in normal circumstances, but that act includes a clause which specifically allows the commitment to be temporarily suspended in times of severe economic difficulty.
  • If a pandemic which has claimed the lives of more than 50,000 British people and caused GDP to drop by 11% does not justify activating that clause, it is difficult to know what would. 
  • However, Britain will never step back from our commitments on the world stage, that is why the government remains committed to remaining at least the second highest aid donor in the G7 – helping us continue to tackle poverty around the world. The UK’s contribution to the OECD will remain higher than France, Italy, Japan, Canada or the United States.
  • Britain's commitment to spend 0.5 per cent is considerably more than the 29 countries on the OECD’s development assistance committee – who average 0.38 per cent of their national income. 
  • It is the government's intention to return to spending 0.7 per cent on helping the world's poorest people when the fiscal situation allows. 

Saturday "Building Bach Better" slot: a reconstructed Violin Concerto in D minor (BWV 1052).

I usually use the expression "Building Bach Better" as a play on words because every politician in the English-speaking world from President Elect Biden through Boris and the New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern down to foot-soldiers like myself seems to be using "Building Back Better" as slogan. 

On this occasion this Bach piece really has been rebuilt. 

Just as the orchestral piece usually called the "Albinoni Adagio" was actually written by Remo Giazotto, allegedly from a fragment of an original Albinoni piece which Giazotto claimed survived the allied bombing of Dresden. the concerto below is also a reconstruction. But the provenance of this one is rather clearer. 

We know that Bach composed a Violin Concerto in D minor which was regarded as so difficult to play that few soloists were able to tackle it. Too few, probably, as not a shred of it has survived. 

The concerto played here is a modern reconstruction, based on a harpsichord concerto written much later by Bach, but which is believed to be a transposition of one of his own earlier violin concertos. So basically it has been reverse engineered!

Joke of the day 28th November 2020


Quote of the day 28th November 2020


(Sir Simon Stevens, NHS Chief executive, referring to an innovative blood test that may spot more than 50 types of cancer and which will be piloted by the NHS in a world-leading study.

The Galleri blood test can detect early stage cancers and will be piloted with 165,000 patients.

Friday, November 27, 2020

When the media gets it wrong

The mainstream media - press and television - are mortal human beings and like almost every other group of mortal human beings most of them try to do a good job and all of them make mistakes occasionally.

I have always strongly opposed attempts such as Leveson to increase controls on the press, because however imperfect a relatively free press is - and believe me, I understand that they sometimes have a lot to answer for - a free press, even a sometimes feckless and irresponsible one, serves the public interest far better than would news organisations who only publish what the government allow them to publish.

A high proportion of peopled involve in politics think that the newspapers, TV or both are biased against their political perspective, sometimes even when this utterly strains credibility - for example, as someone who voted Remain myself, I never ceased to be amazed by the proportion of ardent Remain supporters who think that the BBC gave the Leave campaign too easy a ride.

Becoming too convinced that the media are out to get people of your political view is usually a reliable indicator that someone is starting to lose touch at best with a significant proportion of their fellow citizens and at worst with reality. Getting all your news from social media outlets which churn out what you want to hear and blocking anyone who says things you don't want to hear is a good way to risk turning yourself into a divisive fanatic.

Which makes it all the more infuriating when the media circles the wagons around their own and declines to pay any attention to a story which it is in the public interest to publish, leaving it to mavericks like Guido Fawkes or worse, egregious propaganda outlets for unpleasant regimes which for once have found a true story which fits their agenda, to inform the public of what has happened.

I am no fan of the leave campaigner Arron Banks, but given that the media gave a massive amount of attention to stories accusing him of malpractice in relation to the EU referendum, they ought to have given equal prominence to what has happened in various official investigations and court cases which resulted from those allegations.

I have previously written that I think it is disgraceful that much of the media, with some honourable exceptions, gave far less prominence to the story when Arron Banks was cleared by the National Crime agency last year of any criminal wrongdoing in the Brexit referendum than they had to the original allegations. Natural justice should demand that someone being cleared of charges is given equal prominence to the original charges. 

Even after he was cleared people who ought to know better still accused him of having been found to have broken the law - one or two, such as Carole Cadwalladr, have been forced to apologise for it.

Carole Cadwalladr was given the Orwell Prize for journalism for a story about Brexit which has not aged well, to such an extent that if the Orwell Foundation want to retain a shred of credibility they should seriously consider revoking the award. She is currently being sued for libel by Arron Banks, and I am disappointed by the failure of the mainstream media, who reported her original allegations extensively, to report on what has happened in that court case, in which there have been twists and turns favouring each side in turn, but the most recent development ought to be a game changer.

Although there appear to be almost no reports on national television or in major national newspapers about this, it has been published in at least four places - Guido Fawkes, the Press Gazette, the egregious Putin mouthpiece RT (formerly Russia Today) and lawyers representing Carole Cadwalladr herself, that she has withdrawn the "truth" defence in the libel action which Banks has brought against her.

Cadwalladr is still defending the action on the basis of a "public interest" defence. The Press Gazette report says that, quote

"This defence means arguing the statement in contention was a matter of public interest and that Cadwalladr believed it was in the public interest to publish it."

Presumably, since she is no longer defending her position on the basis that what she wrote was actually true, this infers that she believed it at the time of publication but no longer does. 

And if that is so the mainstream news organisations have a duty to inform the public, particularly those who - whether they want to hear this or not - campaigned to overturn the Brexit referendum on the basis of a belief that the referendum result was invalid for which one of the key pieces of evidence underpinning that belief has now been withdrawn by its' author.

That story is in the public interest to be told and it should not be left to Guido, let alone RT, to tell it.

Digital markets

The government has announced plans to introduce a new pro-competition regime for digital markets, which will give consumers more choice and control over their data, help small businesses thrive and ensure news publishers get a fairer deal.

  • Digital platforms like Google and Facebook make a significant contribution to our economy and day-to—day lives, but the dominance of a just a few big tech firms is pushing others out, reducing innovation and meaning less choice for consumers.
  • That’s why the government is taking steps to establish a new Digital Markets Unit to introduce and enforce a new code to govern the behaviour of platforms that currently dominate the market, requiring them to be more transparent about how they use people’s data, give consumers more choice over things like personalised advertising and prevent them from restricting customers use of rival platforms.
  • These new rules will ensure more competition in the digital market, giving people more choice, ensuring small businesses are not disadvantaged and unleashing a new age of tech growth. This government is pro-tech and pro-competition.

Using AI to beat problems from low productivity to the scourge of cancer

The government is providing £20 million to support world-leading research in Artificial Intelligence, which could transform cancer treatment and help to save lives.

  • Artificial intelligence has the potential to improve all of our lives, and we are determined to ensure the UK is at the forefront of this remarkable technological innovation.
  • The government will use £20 million of taxpayer's money to back 15 of the UK’s top AI projects aiming to tackle some of today’s most pressing challenges, from speeding up medical diagnosis to increasing productivity. One project receiving support aims to use AI to predict the development of cancer before it is fully formed, so it can be treated far earlier.
  • By cementing the UK’s status as a world leader in data and AI, we can transform how people live, work and communicate, while tackling some of the greatest challenges facing us.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

The new tier system

Today, the Health Secretary set out tier allocations across England that each area will enter following the end of nationwide restrictions and the return of a localised tier system - ensuring we keep the virus under control to save lives and protect the NHS. 

  • Thanks to the hard work and sacrifice made by people up and down the country, we are now in a position where we can move out of national lockdown and into more targeted local, tiered restrictions.
  • Today Matt Hancock announced which areas will be placed into which tier. In reintroducing the localised approach, we are also making a number of changes to the previous system:

    • The 10pm closing time for hospitality has been modified to last orders at 10pm and closing time at 11pm. This allows customers to depart in a staggered way and provides greater flexibility.
    • Across all tiers, non-essential retail will be able to remain open and operate in a Covid-Secure way.
    • Gyms will be allowed to remain open.
    • Spectator sport can resume with capacity limits and social distancing, providing more consistency with indoor performances in theatres and concert halls.
  • Cumbria will be in Tier 2 as will most of North Yorkshire and an area around Cheshire and the Wirral. Much of Lancashire and the North East is in Tier three.
  • Nobody wants to throw away the gains of the difficult past few week. Therefore, as the Prime Minister made clear, they will be tougher than in October. We will continue to support those areas facing tier 3 restriction areas with mass community testing, to help those areas move out of the highest tier and provide extra funding to support them as they live with these restrictions. 
  • The government has committed to keeping these measures under review, with the first review taking place before Christmas. This review will allow for the possibility of areas which continue to make progress in slowing the spread of the disease to be moved down a tier in advance of Christmas.
  • Only by keeping the virus under control through these local measures will we be able to see friends and family over Christmas in a relatively safe way while managing the threat the virus still poses. As mass testing and vaccines are rolled out through winter and into the spring, the need for even localised restrictions will gradually reduce – and life can once again return closer to normality.

Further update on the spending review

Yesterday, the Chancellor outlined the government's Spending Review, which delivers on the priorities of the British people – providing funding for new hospitals, better schools and safer streets while protecting lives and livelihoods across the whole of our Union.

  • While our health emergency is not yet over, the economic emergency has only just begun.
  • So, yesterday’s Spending Review delivers on the priorities of the British people:

    • The immediate priority must be to protect people’s lives and livelihoods as we respond to coronavirus.
    • But the government will also deliver stronger public services – more hospitals, better schools and safer streets.
    • And deliver a once-in-a-generation investment in infrastructure – creating jobs, growing the economy, and increasing pride in the places people call home.
  • This is a shared project – a common endeavour to build a better nation to which every person and business in our country has a contribution to make. That unfinished work – irrespective of coronavirus – continues at pace as we emerge stronger and more united from this pandemic.
  • Although this year has taken a very different path to the one we expected, Conservatives have not lost sight of our ambitious plans to level up and create jobs across the country.

Live Facebook Q&A on COVID-19 in Cumbria this evening

This evening, Colin Cox, Director of Public Health for Cumbria, will host a live Q&A session on Cumbria County Council's Facebook page between 7.30pm - 8.30pm. 

Tune in to hear the latest coronavirus updates for Cumbria and feel free to ask a question.

If you are on FB you should be able to access it via this link:

Quote of the day 26th November 2020


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Midweek music spot: Elizabethan Serenade by Ronald Binge.(Paintings by Vladimir Volegov)

The Spending Review 2020




While the health emergency is not yet over, the economic emergency has only just begun.

So, today’s Spending Review delivers on the priorities of the British people

The government's immediate priority is to protect people’s lives and livelihoods as we respond to the  coronavirus.

But we will also deliver

  •  - stronger public services
  •  - more hospitals, better schools and safer streets

 . And deliver a once in a generation investment in infrastructure, creating jobs, growing the economy, and increasing pride in the places people call home.

This is a shared project

– a common endeavour to build a better nation to which every person and business in our country has a contribution to make.

That unfinished work, irrespective of coronavirus, continues at pace as we emerge stronger and more united from this pandemic.

The Spending Review 2020 is set in a difficult and challenging economic context

The Office of Budget responsibility (OBR) have forecast that the economy will contract this year by 11.3 per cent, which would be the largest fall in output for more than 300 years.

Even with growth returning, our economic output is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until the fourth quarter of 2022.

Due to long-term scarring, the economy in 2025 is now forecast to be around 3 per cent smaller than had been expected in assumptions which underpinned the March budget.

Additionally, despite the extraordinary support which the gove3rnment has provided,  because of the damage done by COVID-19 to the nation's economy, unemployment is expected to rise to a peak of 7.5% (2.6 million people) in the second quarter of next year.

The economic impact of coronavirus has also caused a significant increase in borrowing and debt. In the OBR’s ‘central’ forecast, the UK is expected to borrow a total of £394 billion this year

– equivalent to 19% of GDP, the highest level of borrowing in our peacetime history.

We are forecast to still be borrowing over £100 billion (4% of GDP) even in 2025.

Due to these elevated borrowing levels, and a persistent current deficit, underlying debt is forecast to continue rising every year, reaching 97.5 per cent of GDP

But the government will address this challenge.

Responding to Covid-19

Allocating funding now to support the response to the pandemic will allow the government to control the spread of the virus, mitigate its harms and build the environment for the economy to bounce back strongly. SR20 confirms a further £38 billion to tackle the virus in 2020-21 and provides £55 billion to support the response to Covid-19 in 2021-22, including £2.6 billion for the devolved administrations. This funding is targeted in three key areas:

  • controlling and mitigating the virus: SR20 supports the mitigation of the virus by funding the development and purchase of successful vaccines, and NHS Test and Trace. The government has now made available £6 billion in total to research and procure Covid-19 vaccines

  • public services support and recovery: SR20 ensures public services across the UK have the resources they need to continue tackling the virus and address service backlogs

  • supporting jobs and businesses: SR20 continues to prioritise supporting jobs and livelihoods across the UK. The government is investing an additional £3.7 billion to build on the commitments made in the Plan for Jobs.

As the trajectory of the pandemic remains uncertain, SR20 sets aside £21 billion of contingency funding within the £55 billion support package for public services. This will allow the necessary support to be put in place and adapted through the course of next year.

Investing in a recovery for all regions of the UK

Alongside responding to the immediate impacts of Covid-19, SR20 provides investment to kickstart the UK’s economic recovery and rebuild for a stronger, greener, more equal future.

Building a stronger future

SR20 announces the next phase of the government’s infrastructure revolution with £100 billion of capital expenditure next year, to kickstart growth and support jobs. SR20 gives multi-year funding certainty for existing projects – such as school and hospital rebuilding, and flagship transport schemes – and targets additional investment in areas which will improve the UK’s competitiveness in the long-term, backing new investments in cutting-edge research and clean energy sources of the future.

Increased infrastructure investment is supported by a new National Infrastructure Strategy, which sets out the government’s plans to transform the UK’s economic infrastructure. It is based around three central objectives: economic recovery, levelling up and unleashing the potential of the Union, and meeting the UK’s net zero emissions target by 2050. These objectives will be supported by the creation of a new infrastructure bank to catalyse private investment in projects across the UK; as well as through a comprehensive set of reforms to the way infrastructure is delivered.

Levelling up and the Union

The economic recovery from Covid-19 must work for everyone in the UK and SR20 continues to drive forward the government’s commitment to level up opportunity across all regions. Infrastructure investment is a key part of this and SR20 targets investment to support regional cities as engines of growth through the Transforming Cities Fund and intra‑city transport settlements; rejuvenate towns and communities in need in England through the Towns Fund; and ensure each place is well connected through increased investment in road, rail and broadband.

The government is launching a new Levelling Up Fund worth £4 billion for England, that will attract up to £0.8 billion for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the usual way. This will invest in local infrastructure that has a visible impact on people and their communities and will support economic recovery. It will be open to all local areas in England and prioritise bids to drive growth and regeneration in places in need, those facing particular challenges, and areas that have received less government investment in recent years. The government will set out further details on how to support levelling up across the UK in the New Year. 

By levelling up, SR20 also unleashes the potential of the Union, recognising that England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are stronger and more prosperous together. The Union will benefit from plans to create up to 10 freeports as hubs for global trade and investment; from UK-wide investment in areas such as mobile coverage; and from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF). Funding for the UKSPF will ramp up so that total domestic UK-wide funding will at least match receipts from EU structural funds, on average reaching around £1.5 billion per year. In addition, to help local areas prepare over 2021-22 for the introduction of the UKSPF, the government will provide additional UK-wide funding to support communities to pilot programmes and new approaches.

SR20 also confirms increased funding of £4.7 billion to the devolved administrations through the Barnett formula in 2021-22, including £2.6 billion related to Covid-19, on top of their combined baseline of over £60 billion. This provides an additional £2.4 billion for the Scottish Government, £1.3 billion for the Welsh Government and £0.9 billion for the Northern Ireland Executive. This builds on the unprecedented £16 billion of upfront resource funding the UK government has provided to the devolved administrations in 2020-21, in addition to their Budget 2020 funding for that year.

SR20 also delivers bespoke support, accelerating multi-year projects under four existing City and Growth Deals in Scotland to drive forward the local economic priorities of Tay Cities, Borderlands, Moray and the Scottish Islands. It also invests a further £1.1 billion to support farmers, land managers and the rural economy, and £20 million to support fisheries in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

To embed levelling up in future policy making, the government is changing how it invests in places. The government has published a refreshed Green Book to ensure that project appraisals properly analyse how proposals deliver the government’s key priorities, including levelling up, and how they will impact different places. The government is also bringing policy makers closer to the communities they serve by moving more civil servants out of London.

Green Industrial Revolution

The recovery from Covid-19 must be green. SR20 provides funding for the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan, which has set out the government’s vision to tackle climate change whilst simultaneously supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs across the UK. As transport is one of the highest-emitting sectors, SR20 prioritises investment to transition to zero emission vehicles, including by providing £1.9 billion for charging infrastructure and consumer incentives. SR20 also provides £1.1 billion to make homes and buildings net zero-ready.

To push the limits of what is currently possible, SR20 also invests in innovative clean energy technologies, building on existing UK strengths and venturing into exciting new industries. This includes £1 billion for a Carbon Capture and Storage Infrastructure Fund, and additional investment in low hydrogen carbon production, offshore wind, and nuclear power. This brings total investment to support a green industrial revolution to £12 billion.

Delivering on promises to the British people

Improving outcomes in public services

SR20 invests in public services to deliver the government’s priorities: to support a high quality, resilient healthcare system; to level up education standards and provide all learners with a quality education experience; to continue tackling crime to keep people safe; and to support local authorities in their efforts to serve local communities. Devolved administrations will receive funding in line with these investments. SR20:

  • reaffirms the historic long-term settlement for the NHS which provides a cash increase of £33.9 billion a year by 2023-24

  • reaffirms the government’s commitment to increase the schools budget by £7.1 billion by 2022-23, compared to 2019-20 funding levels. This three-year investment represents the biggest school funding boost in a decade and includes an uplift of £2.2 billion from 2020‑21 to 2021-22

  • provides the police with the resources they need to tackle crime, with more than £400 million additional funding to continue the recruitment of 20,000 additional police officers by 2023. This funds recruitment of an extra 6,000 officers in 2021-22, on top of £750 million provided at SR19 to recruit the first 6,000 officers and pay for the infrastructure for all 20,000

  • supports local authorities through increasing core spending power by an estimated 4.5 per cent in cash terms next year, which follows the largest real terms increase in core spending power for a decade at SR19. Local authorities will be able to increase their council tax bills by 2 per cent without needing to hold a referendum, and social care authorities will be able to charge an additional 3 per cent precept to help fund pressures in social care. SR20 also provides £254 million of additional funding to help end rough sleeping – a 60 per cent cash increase compared to SR19.

To match the UK’s ambitions on economic infrastructure, which are set out in the National Infrastructure Strategy, SR20 invests in key infrastructure that supports the UK’s world-class public services, delivering on commitments to build hospitals, schools and prisons.[footnote 13] It provides multi-year funding to build 40 new hospitals, launches a ten-year programme to build 500 schools, and provides more than £4 billion to make significant progress in delivering 18,000 prison places across England and Wales by the mid-2020s.

Ensuring public money is spent well

The government is committed to ensuring that taxpayers’ money is spent well. SR20 ties spending more directly to what the government is aiming to deliver through announcing provisional priority outcomes - and corresponding metrics to monitor these - for each area of spending. It builds on the UK’s well-regarded system for managing public money, and bolsters central oversight and control. SR20 also takes further steps to break down departmental silos and improve join up across government, building on the first round of projects funded through the Shared Outcomes Fund launched at SR19.

The government’s increased investment in infrastructure through SR20 must be matched by faster, smarter delivery. Project Speed, a new taskforce, takes steps to cut down the time it takes to develop, design and deliver vital projects. Projects funded through SR20 will also make increased use of Modern Methods of Construction.

Strengthening the UK’s place in the world

Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of stronger international cooperation and collaboration, and the role of the UK as an international leader in tackling global challenges. UK labs are at the forefront of vaccine research, UK firms are creating technological innovations to help tackle climate change, and the UK will host the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow next year.

SR20 ensures that the government matches the ambitions of a global Britain. It provides the first settlement for the newly-formed Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), bringing together the UK’s development and diplomatic expertise into one department. This will help to maximise the UK’s influence as a force for good and maintain the UK’s position as a global leader in international development.

The UK will spend the equivalent of 0.5 per cent of gross national income (GNI) as overseas aid in 2021. SR20 therefore provides £10 billion of ODA in 2021-22. This settlement will ensure that the UK remains one of the largest ODA spenders in the world and well above the OECD average.[footnote 14] At a time of emergency, sticking to 0.7 per cent is not an appropriate prioritisation of resources. The government intends to return to the 0.7 per cent target when the fiscal situation allows.

The UK is the world’s largest donor to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment,[footnote 15] an international mechanism to support equitable access for developing countries to Covid-19 vaccines, as well as the largest donor to the World Bank’s lending arm for the poorest countries. The UK was also the first country to commit new financing to the IMF’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust[footnote 16] and is the second-largest Member State contributor to the World Health Organisation.[footnote 17]

To cement the UK’s future as a scientific superpower and drive economic growth, the government is providing almost £15 billion for R&D next year. This will boost the UK’s world‑class research base and increase the productivity and international competitiveness of its innovative firms. This will also reinforce UK international leadership by harnessing innovation with international partners to address the greatest global challenges, from Covid-19 to climate change.

Defence is a central pillar of the government’s ambitions to safeguard the UK’s interests and values, strengthen its global influence, and work with allies to defend free and open societies. SR20 provides Defence with additional funding of over £24 billion in cash terms over four years, including £6.6 billion of R&D, to maintain a cutting-edge military. This settlement means that the Defence budget will grow at an average of 1.8 per cent per year in real terms from 2019-20 to 2024-25. This reaffirms the UK’s commitment to its allies, making the UK the largest European spender on defence in NATO and the second largest in the Alliance.

SR20 provides the UK Intelligence Community with a £173 million funding increase in 2021-22, representing a 5.4 per cent average annual real-terms increase since 2019-20. It also includes over £1.3 billion of capital investment from 2021-22 to 2024-25.

Rebuilding Britain's Economy

Spending Review 2020 (SR20) represents the next step in the government’s fiscal response to Covid-19. It provides significant support for the government’s priority to control and mitigate the virus by funding significant increases in testing capacity and making provisions for the rapid, mass deployment of a successful vaccine. This will allow the government to loosen economic restrictions whilst continuing to protect lives. Responding to the increase in unemployment, SR20 provides additional funding to build on the commitments of the government’s Plan for Jobs, taking further steps to provide unprecedented support to help unemployed people find a job.

More details of the spending review can be found on the government website here.

Audit report on the Cost of PPE

There has been press coverage and comment in social media of a National Audit Office report on the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the pandemic. 

  • The NAO’s found that all the NHS providers audited ‘were always able to get what they needed in time’ thanks to the herculean effort of Government, NHS, Armed Forces, civil servants and industry to deliver around 5 billion items of PPE to the frontline at record speed. 
  • The government should not apologise for going to every length to ensure that healthcare workers had the protection they needed to do their jobs safely and properly in the height of an unprecedented pandemic. Yes, this cost taxpayers money, and it cost more than might have been required in more normal circumstances. But the lives of front-line health staff and carers were on the line.
  • You cannot reasonably both complain that doctors, nurses and other front-line carers had their lives put at risk because they didn't have enough PPE, and at the same time complain that the government spent too much money trying to get PPE for them. That doesn't stop some parts of the press and the opposition parties from making both criticisms at once but such a position makes no sense. 
  • With almost 32 billion items of PPE ordered the government is confident we can provide a continuous supply to the frontline over the coming months and respond to future eventualities.


Yesterday, agreement was reached on a single set of UK-wide coronavirus measures to allow family and friends to see each other over Christmas.

  • This cannot be a ‘normal’ Christmas. But as we approach the festive period, we have been working closely together to find a way for family and friends to see each other, even if it is for a short time, and recognising that it must be both limited and cautious.
  • The UK Government and Devolved Administrations have agreed that:

    • Travel restrictions across the four administrations and between tiers will be lifted to provide a window for households to come together between the 23rd and 27th of December.
    • Up to three households can form an exclusive ‘bubble’ to meet at home during this period. When a bubble is formed it is fixed, and must not be changed or extended further at any point.
    • Each Christmas bubble can meet at home, at a place of worship or an outdoor public place, but existing, more restrictive rules on hospitality and meeting in other venues will be maintained throughout this period.
  • Many have already begun making their plans, and this agreement provides clarity to help people make the right choices for them, and enjoy time with those closest to them while staying within the rules to protect us all. Even where it is within the rules, meeting with friends and family over Christmas will be a personal judgement for individuals to take, mindful of the risks to themselves and others, particularly those who are vulnerable.