Rishi Sunak makes five promises on economy, health and immigration in keynote speech

Politics

Rishi Sunak has pledged to boost the economy, cut hospital waiting lists and stop migrant crossings in the Channel in his first speech of the year.

Speaking in Stratford, the PM laid out his priorities for 2023 and asked the public to judge his premiership on five promises.

These pledges are:

• to halve inflation

• to grow the economy

• to reduce debt

• to cut hospital waiting lists

• to stop migrant crossings

Mr Sunak promised to work “night and day” to deliver on the above five challenges during this parliament and to create “a future that restores optimism, hope and pride in Britain”.

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“So I want to make five promises to you today. Five pledges to deliver peace of mind. Five foundations, on which to build a better future for our children and grandchildren,” the PM said.

“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.

“So, five promises – we will: Halve inflation, grow the economy, reduce debt, cut waiting lists, and stop the boats.

“Those are the people’s priorities. They are your government’s priorities. And we will either have achieved them or not.

“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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Mr Sunak continued: “People don’t want politicians who promise the earth and then fail to deliver. They want government to focus less on politics and more on the things they care about.

“The cost of living, too high. Waiting times in the NHS, too long. Illegal migration, far too much.

“I think people do accept that many of these challenges are, at least in part, the legacy of COVID and impacted by the war in Ukraine. But that’s not an excuse. We need to address these problems, not just talk about them.”

The PM added: “I will only promise what I can deliver, and I will deliver what I promise.”

But he acknowledged the vision he set out may not be delivered in its entirety this year.

Mr Sunak’s speech comes as the UK is facing a wave of strikes, a cost of living crisis and huge pressures on the NHS.

Earlier today, a leading medical organisation said the PM must recall parliament “immediately” so MPs can discuss the “NHS crisis”.

The PM said his government is “taking urgent action” to increase hospital bed capacity by 7,000, adding: “And the NHS is working urgently on future plans for A&E and ambulances.”

He acknowledged that, at present, “patients aren’t receiving the care they deserve” and said “something has to change”.

The PM told his audience that the “most acute” pressure in the NHS is on A&E.

On the continuing industrial action, Mr Sunak called for a “reasonable dialogue” with the unions and promised an update on the government’s next steps.

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Saying ministers “hugely value public sector workers like nurses”, the PM said his government’s actions will “reflect the people’s priorities”.

Yesterday, the PM’s new mission to combat high rates of innumeracy in England was unveiled through a pledge to ensure all pupils in the country study some form of the subject until the age of 18.

Addressing this ambition, Mr Sunak said: “Just imagine what greater numeracy will unlock for – people the skills to feel confident with your finances, to find the best mortgage deal.

“The ability to do your job better and get paid more and greater self-confidence to navigate a changing world.”

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