In his first speech of 2023, prime minister Rishi Sunak has urged the public to “trust” him to deliver on five newly announced “people’s priorities”.
The prime minister pledged to halve inflation, grow the economy, make sure the national debt shrinks, ensure NHS waiting lists fall and pass new laws to crackdown on the migrant Channel crossings crisis.
“First, we will halve inflation this year to ease the cost of living and give people financial security. Second, we will grow the economy, creating better-paid jobs and opportunity right across the country. Third, we will make sure our national debt is falling so that we can secure the future of public services. Fourth, NHS waiting lists will fall and people will get the care they need more quickly. Fifth, we will pass new laws to stop small boats, making sure that if you come to this country illegally, you are detained and swiftly removed”.
Speaking in central London, he continued: “No tricks… no ambiguity… we’re either delivering for you or we’re not. We will rebuild trust in politics through action, or not at all. So, I ask you to judge us on the effort we put in and the results we achieve”.
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Asked why people should believe the five promises announced in the speech, Sunak pointed to his record as chancellor during the coronavirus pandemic. “People can trust that when I say I am going to do something, I am going to do it”, the prime minister said.
Sunak added that his five promises will “deliver peace of mind” to voters and help to build a “better future for our children and grandchildren”.
A central part of the speech focussed on the NHS. Sunak said “something has to change” in the health service and promised more choice for patients, while focusing on cutting waiting lists.
The prime minister said the government is “taking urgent action” to improve the health service by doing things like increasing the number of available beds and also preparing future plans for better A&E and ambulance services. He said people should be able to access “high quality” care “wherever you live”
Moving to strikes, Mr Sunak said there is “a lot of misinformation out there”.
Outlining the Government’s position, he said ministers “hugely value public sector workers like nurses” and he wants to discuss with unions what is “responsible and fair for our country”.
He confirmed that the Government will set out its next steps on strikes in the next few days.
There were some caveats in the speech, and journalists questioned the prime minister about the timeframe over which the five key “priorities” will be delivered.
Asked when the crisis within the NHS will improve, he said: “This is an absolute priority for me. I made five promises today and making sure people can get the care that they need as quickly as they need it is right there as one of those priorities.
“The country should hold me to account for delivering it and I am confident that we will.”
The PM clarified that he wants to halve inflation and deliver economic growth this year. Whereas, on the matter of falling debt, he said plans are already in place for it to fall in the “medium term”.
On NHS waiting times he said that by the spring of next year he wants to have eliminated people waiting more than one year for treatment.
Mr Sunak also used the speech to announce a major new policy, making maths education compulsory for all up to age 18.
The Winchester College-educated prime minister said: “This is personal for me. Every opportunity I’ve had in life began with the education I was so fortunate to receive.”