The RETURN of Eat Out to Help Out? Rishi Sunak hints meal deal scheme will be back in the New Year… just as Britons are trying to shift the Christmas pounds
- Mr Sunak said there would be further measures to get people ‘out and about’
- He added that the Government wants to get ‘consumers spending again’
- Comments came after news the UK economy bounced back by 15.5 per cent
- The Government’s Eat Out to Help Out initiative ran from August 3 to 31
- Offered people a 50 per cent discount on meals up to £10 per person
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has hinted that the successful Eat Out To Help out scheme could make a return in the New Year to get Britons spending despite Boris Johnson’s war on junk food.
More than 100million meals were enjoyed by meals when the scheme was in place in August.
Mr Sunak said this morning there would be further measures to get people ‘out and about’ in the hope of boosting the nation’s ailing finances.
This is despite the fact the Government has also been criticised for pushing a ‘nanny state’ plan to ban online junk food adverts, after the Eat Out to Help Out scheme effectively encouraged people to eat fast food.
One Tory MP said the ‘incoherence’ of the conflicting policies was ‘the sort of thing that is creating problems’ on the Conservative backbenches.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has hinted that the successful Eat Out To Help out scheme could make a return to ‘get consumers spending again’ after England’s second lockdown ends
Mr Sunak said this morning there would be further measures to get people ‘out and about’ in the hope of boosting the nation’s ailing finances
The new lockdown, which came into force last Thursday, is set to come to an end on December 2.
The Government’s Eat Out to Help Out initiative ran from August 3 to 31, offering people a 50 per cent discount on meals up to £10 per person at participating restaurants, as ministers tried to get the hospitality industry back on its feet.
Numerous fast food companies took part in the scheme and more than 100million discounted meals were enjoyed by Britons.
‘Eat Out to Help Out’ was to blame for one in SIX coronavirus outbreaks
Eat Out to Help Out played a ‘significant’ role in accelerating Britain’s second wave of coronavirus, a study claimed.
There was a sharp increase in clusters of Covid-19 infections a week after the Government scheme began, according to University of Warwick researchers.
They believe the initiative, which gave diners up to 50 per cent off meals out, was to blame for as many as 17 per cent of new infection clusters between August and early September – one in every six.
The experts looked back at trends in infection rates before, during and after the scheme to work out how it affected the numbers of people testing positive.
Although people had to socially distance in restaurants where the deal was offered, the virus is known to spread more easily indoors and thrives particularly in enclosed spaces.
Mr Sunak was asked this morning if a new version of the scheme could be introduced to help food outlets after they were hammered again by the latest lockdown.
He told Sky News: ‘We’ll talk about specific measures, but more broadly I think it’s right when we finally exit this (lockdown) and hopefully next year with testing and vaccines, we’ll be able to start to look forward to getting back to normal.
‘We’ll have to look forward to the economic situation then and see what the best form of our support.
‘We want to get consumers spending again, get them out and about, we’ll look at a range of things to see what the right interventions are at that time.’
However, the New Year is generally the time when Britons are struggling to shift extra weight put on over Christmas, raising questions about whether a new scheme could make it harder for people to lose unnecessary pounds.
Mr Sunak’s comments come after the Government was strongly criticised for its ‘nanny state’ plan to ban online junk food adverts, even though they had effectively encouraged people to eat fast food via Eat Out to Help Out.
Conservative backbenchers said people should be able to ‘assume responsibility for their own health’ and said the proposals were ‘incoherent’.
Critics of the policy added that it had been ‘designed by fanatics’ and would have ‘no impact on obesity’.
The proposed online advertising ban would apply to food which is high in fat, sugar and salt.
The Department of Health and Social Care has launched a six week consultation on the plan to understand the potential impact of the measures.
But there is a growing backlash because foods such as avocados, Marmite, mustard and hummus could all be affected, as well as meals like fish and chips, and curry.
One Tory MP said: ‘That is the sort of incoherence that is causing problems.
‘Also someone has to make a decision on what junk food actually is and I am not aware of anyone who has actually managed it.
‘I don’t like nannying people. When George Osborne came up with the sugar tax that was bad enough and I think people should assume responsibility for their own health.
‘Far more sensible than a ban on advertising would be an information campaign that treats people like adults.
‘It is not as straight forward as just banning things.’
Mr Sunak was asked this morning if a new version of the scheme could be introduced to help food outlets after they were hammered again by the latest lockdown. Pictured: Mr Sunak with PM Boris Johnson load a delivery van with baskets during a visit to the Tesco Erith distribution Centre in south east London on Wednesday
Another Tory MP questioned why Boris Johnson is proceeding with such a plan.
‘It is a sort of nanny state thing which the PM used to rail against,’ they said.
‘It is sort of anti what you would think Boris stood for.
‘It is not what we should be doing. If they press ahead with it it will annoy a lot of backbenchers.
‘If we were in opposition now we would be complaining merry hell about it.’
Britons tucked into 100 MILLION Eat Out to Help Out meals in August
More than 100million half price meals were enjoyed under the ‘Rishi’s Dishes’ scheme to breathe new life into restaurants, pubs and cafes.
It seems an astonishing 36million meals were eaten on Bank Holiday Monday alone in a final cut price blow out.
On the face of it, that was three times more than on the first three days of the scheme at the beginning of August.
The ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme has cost the taxpayer £522million to date and the final bill could well top £600million when all the claims are in.
This figure should be set against an original estimate of £500million and suggests Britons love a bargain more than they fear the pandemic.
Many restaurants were fully booked when the scheme came to an end on Bank Holiday Monday with some people warning of queues of up to three hours.
The Treasury said that 84,700 establishments signed up making 130,000 claims worth £522 million. Officials said the higher than expected spending should be seen as a positive in terms of protecting businesses and jobs.
The proposals were also slammed by the Institute of Economic Affairs think tank, with head of lifestyle economics Christopher Snowdon warning the ban would impact ‘a huge range of perfectly normal food and drink products’.
‘It will cover everything from jam and yoghurt to Cornish pasties and mustard, and will include all forms of online advertising, including paid-for search engine listings, emails and even text messages – at any time day or night,’ he said.
‘No country in the world has attempted anything like this and with good reason.
‘It will permanently exclude businesses large and small from the primary marketing medium of our time.
‘It is an ill-considered policy designed by fanatics who have mis-sold it to politicians as a ban on “junk food” advertising.
‘It will be hugely damaging to food producers, especially small businesses and start up companies, and will have no impact on obesity.’
Matt Kilcoyne, from the Adam Smith Institute, said: ‘Under the plans, you could advertise a lamb joint as long as it’s uncooked, but if it is roasted you can’t.’
Mr Kilcoyne said the messaging from the Government was ‘muddled’ as many of the foods celebrated by its Food Is Great campaign — including salmon, cream teas and whisky — would be excluded from advertising in the UK.
The Food and Drink Federation said it ‘beggars belief’ the industry had only been given six weeks to respond and ‘it could not come at a worse time for food and drink manufacturers’.
Advertising campaigners said the plans would deal a ‘huge blow’ to a sector already dealing with the impact of Covid-19.
In a joint statement, the leaders of the Advertising Association, the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and the Internet Advertising Bureau UK said: ‘To borrow the Prime Minister’s language, this is not an “oven-ready” policy; it is not even half-baked.
‘But it does have all the ingredients of a kick in the teeth for our industry from a Government which we believed was interested in prioritising economic growth alongside targeted interventions to support health and wellbeing.’
But Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended the proposals and said: ‘I am determined to help parents, children and families in the UK make healthier choices about what they eat.
‘We know as children spend more time online, parents want to be reassured they are not being exposed to adverts promoting unhealthy foods, which can affect eating habits for life.
‘This will be a world-leading measure to tackle the obesity challenges we face now but it will also address a problem that will only become more prominent in the future.’
Economy bounced back by 15.5 PER CENT in three months to September but the recovery was ALREADY slowing before second lockdown
- GDP rose by 15.5 per cent in the three months to September after record fall
- But the recovery was already slowing before the second lockdown came in
- Hopes vaccine breakthrough could mean the economy claws back ground faster
The economy bounced back by 15.5 per cent in the three months to September – but it was already slowing down before the latest lockdown.
Official figures showed UK plc clawed back ground over the summer, as coronavirus cases fell and shops, bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen.
But the recovery tapered off in September, and by the end of the period GDP was still 9.7 per cent below where it was at the end of 2019.
The Bank of England predicted last week that there will be a 2 per cent fall in the last quarter of the year, as curbs hammer activity again. However, there have been hopes of a quicker recovery after good news about the prospects for a vaccine.
The record surge in the third quarter came after a record fall in the second quarter, of 19.8 per cent.
Rishi Sunak admitted that the draconian restrictions to combat the surge in infections had quelled the rebound, but insisted progress on mass testing and vaccines meant there were ‘reasons to be cautiously optimistic’.
On another day of coronavirus-related developments:
- Britain’s official coronavirus death toll passed the grim milestone of 50,000 yesterday after health chiefs announced another 595 victims in the highest daily count since May
- Middle-class savers and entrepreneurs face being hammered by a multi-billion-pound tax raid under plans being considered by the Chancellor to repair the public finances
- High street retailed WH Smith has fallen into a £226 million loss in the past 12 months amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic
- Croydon Council declared itself practically bankrupt yesterday and blamed its financial crisis on the havoc caused by coronavirus
Official figures showed UK plc clawed back ground over the summer, as cases fell and shops, bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen
But the recovery tapered off in September, and by the end of the period GDP was still 9.7 per cent below where it was at the end of 2019
The Bank of England said last week that it’s central expectation is that the economy will not regain its level from last year until the start of 2022
ONS spokesman Jonathan Athow said: ‘While all main sectors of the economy continued to recover, the rate of growth slowed again with the economy still remaining well below its pre-pandemic peak.
‘The return of children to school boosted activity in the education sector. Housebuilding also continued to recover, while business strengthened for lawyers and accountants after a poor August.
Grim milestone as UK’s Covid death toll tops 50,000 with 595 more victims in highest daily count since May
Britain’s official coronavirus death toll passed the grim milestone of 50,000 on Wednesday after health chiefs announced another 595 victims in the highest daily count since May.
Boris Johnson said the figures were a stark reminder that the UK ‘was not out of the woods yet’ despite promising news about a vaccine earlier this week. Officials say Covid fatalities will continue to rise for ‘several weeks’ due to high infection rates though October.
It takes about three weeks for infected patients to become severely ill and eventually succumb to the virus. The PM labelled every death a tragedy, saying ‘we mourn everybody’s who’s gone’.
But despite the gloomy warnings of thousands more deaths, the silver lining is that daily cases are down week on week. A total of 22,950 new infections were recorded — which is 8.8 per cent lower than the 25,177 that were registered last Wednesday.
‘However, pubs and restaurants saw less business, after the ‘eat out to help out’ scheme ended, and accommodation saw less business after a successful summer.’
Chancellor Rishi Sunak, said: ‘Today’s figures show that our economy was recovering over the Summer, but started to slow going into Autumn.
‘The steps we’ve had to take since to halt the spread of the virus mean growth has likely slowed further since then.
‘But there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic on the health side – including promising news on tests and vaccines.
‘My economic priority continues to be jobs – that’s why we extended furlough through to March and I welcome the news today that nearly 20,000 new roles for young people have been created through our Kickstart scheme.’
Economists have raised hopes UK plc could return to pre-pandemic levels within six months after the bombshell news about a vaccine.
A wave of optimism has been sweeping through scientists and ministers after Pfizer announced that early trials found its jabs were 90 per cent effective.
The government has said the UK – which already has 40million doses on order – could start vaccinating people before Christmas. Leading experts have suggested life could be ‘back to normal’ by Spring, as long as the government does not ‘screw up’ the rollout.
The Bank of England gave a grim assessment only last week that UK plc would not return to its level from the end of last year until mid-2022.
But Douglas McWilliams, of the Centre for Economics and Business Research, said GDP could get back to 2019 levels by ‘as early as mid-2021’.
He tweeted this week: ‘This would give a GDP growth rate next year that might be double digit or close to that.’
Paul Dales at Capital Economics and Simon French at Panmure Gordon brought their predictions for a recovery forward from the first half of 2023 to the beginning of 2022.
Capital Economics said unemployment was more likely to peak at 7 per cent next year, rather than the 9 per cent previously estimated.
The Office for National Statistics revealed earlier this year that public sector debt is now above £2 trillion for the first time ever
The Bank of England said last week that it expected GDP to be 11 per cent lower this year
In the latest Monetary Policy report, the Bank projected that economy would to shrink by 2 per cent between October and December, but not to go into a double-dip recession – defined as two consecutive quarters of falling.
GDP was predicted to be 11 per cent lower this year in real terms, worse than the 9.5 per cent the Bank suggested in August.
Heat on Rishi Sunak over tax watchdog’s plan for a £90bn hit on property owners, savers and investors
Middle-class savers and entrepreneurs face being hammered by a multi-billion-pound tax raid under plans being considered by the Chancellor to repair the public finances.
The Treasury’s independent tax watchdog has recommended a major overhaul of the capital gains tax (CGT) regime on the sale of assets, which could triple the number of people hit by the duty.
In a report published on Wednesday, the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) recommended increasing CGT rates by aligning them more closely with income tax bands, as well as cutting annual tax-free allowances.
The controversial recommendations will be examined by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who is under pressure to repair the battered public finances.
The central expectation was that the economy would not regain its level from last year until the start of 2022.
The Bank also increased its mammoth bond-buying programme by £150billion to £895billion, warning that UK plc’s recovery was already ‘softening’ before the squeeze was announced on Saturday.
Today’s economic news came as high street stalwart WH Smith announced today that they had suffered a £226million loss in the past 12 months.
Their pre-tax loss is three times more than analysts feared after forecasters previously described 2020 as a ‘write-off’ year for WH Smith.
But the 228-year-old company’s chief executive said they have a ‘robust plan’ to help them ’emerge stronger’.
WH Smith said it had lost £226 million before tax in the 12 months to August, a swing from a £135 million profit a year earlier.
Revenue dropped 33 per cent to just over £1 billion, WH Smith revealed on Thursday.
WH Smith chief executive Carl Cowling said: ‘Since March, we have been heavily impacted by the pandemic.’
He added: ‘While passenger numbers continue to be significantly impacted in the UK, our North American business, where 85 per cent of passengers are domestic, is beginning to see some encouraging signs of recovery.
‘In addition, we continue to open new stores in the US and win significant tenders across major US airports.
‘In high street, we had seen a steady recovery and we were well set up both in stores and online as we went into the second lockdown. We currently have 558 stores open.
‘We have a robust plan across all our businesses focusing on cost management and initiatives within our control which support us in the immediate term and position us well to emerge stronger as our markets recover.’