The UK government will seek to head off an unemployment crisis by paying bonuses to employers to bring workers back to their jobs from the state's coronavirus emergency lay offs scheme, finance minister Rishi Sunak said.
Under the plan - part of a broader programme of measures - employers would be paid £1,000 for every worker who returns to their job after the furlough scheme expires at the end of October, Mr Sunak told parliament.
"I want every person in this House and in the country to know that I will never accept unemployment as an unavoidable outcome," he said.
"We haven't done everything we have so far just to step back now and say, 'job done'. In truth, the job has only just begun," he added.
Mr Sunak is already on course to take state borrowing to World War II levels as he subsidises 9 million jobs on the furlough scheme - equivalent to more than a third of private-sector workers - and supports the incomes of 2 million self-employed.
With close to 45,000 coronavirus-linked deaths, Britain has been hit harder by the pandemic than any other European country.
For the worst-affected sectors of an economy that shrank by 25% over March and April, recovery remains a long way off.
Mr Sunak, a 40-year-old former Goldman Sachs analyst who became finance minister in February, has won plaudits for setting aside the pro-market instincts of his Conservative Party to put the state at the heart of Britain's COVID-19 response.
"We entered this crisis unencumbered by dogma and we continue in this spirit, driven always by the simple desire to do what is right," he told parliament.
His plan also includes a £2 billion fund to create six-month work placement jobs for unemployed 16-24 year-olds and the largest ever rise in partly government-funded apprenticeships.
He said he will spend a further £3 billion to improve the energy efficiency of homes and public buildings, which would support more than 100,000 jobs.
He also raised a threshold for a tax on property purchases to £500,000, four times its current level, with immediate effect until March 31 to help breathe life into the housing market and the broader economy.
The UK will cut value-added tax (VAT) on spending on hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions, and subsidise temporary discounts on eating out, to boost demand for services hardest hit by the Covid-19 lockdown.
The standard 20% rate of VAT will be lowered to 5% from next Wednesday until January 12, 2021 for the hospitality and domestic tourism sector at a cost of around £4 billion, Sunak told parliament today.
Separately, Mr Sunak said the government would subsidise half-price restaurant meals served on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August.
UK high-street retailers, as well as pubs and restaurants, have so far seen only around half their customers return as lockdown measures have been partially relaxed in recent days and weeks.