Rishi Sunak: what Prime Minister said during Conservative Home interview - from NHS to illegal migration
The Prime Minister spoke about the NHS and his support for a greater role for the private sector to reduce waiting lists
He made the pledge for the Tories to commit to making their promises of cutting inflation, cutting NHS waiting lists and stopping small boat crossings. It comes as campaigning ramps up ahead of the local elections in May and the expected general election next year
Here’s everything you need to know from his interview with the Conservative outlet.
What did Rishi Sunak say about the NHS?
The NHS is one of the most pressing matters for votes, with waiting lists at an all time high. An estimated 7.2 million Britons are currently on NHS waiting lists for procedures.
The Prime Minister told Conservative Home that Tories should not get “hung up” on looking towards increasing the impact of the private sector in the NHS. He said: “Cutting the waiting list is one of my priorities, there’s lots of different ways we are doing that but it’s about doing things differently, it’s about reform, it’s about using the private sector more, the independent sector.
“That’s something that we, actually, should be very comfortable with. Ultimately, if a patient is still getting the care they need, free at the point of use, we shouldn’t be so hung up on who is providing it, we should be using the independent sector to provide choice, to provide competition, and drive up quality," he continued. “It’s worked in the past and we are going to do more of that going forward.”
What did Rishi Sunak say about illegal migration?
The Tories have touted the promise of stopping small boat crossings in their campaigning ahead of the next general election, with Sunak even naming it as one of the 5 pledges he made at the start of the year.
However, Sunak would not be drawn on whether he would fulfil the pledge by the next general election. The Prime Minister warned that the party would not be able to make a difference to the situation “overnight”. He said: “I’ve always said this is not something that is... easy, it is a complicated problem where there’s no single, simple solution that will fix it.
"And I’ve also said it won’t happen overnight. I’ve been very clear about that. People should know it’s very important to me," he said. "It’s hugely important to the country that we need to fix the system as a matter of fairness. It’s not fair that people are breaking the rules and coming here illegally."
Sunak added that he expected the controversial Illegal Migration Bill to be challenged legally, including a possible intervention by the European Court of Human Rights similar to the intervention made with the Rwanda scheme. The PM said: “You have to expect legal challenges on these things, our job is to robustly defend them and that’s what we’ll do.”
Home Office figures showed that the total number of people who made the perilous journey across the English Channel last year was 45,755, with 492 people attempting the crossing on Wednesday (5 April) alone.
What did Rishi Sunak say about housing?
During his interview with Conservative Home, Sunak placed emphasis on the Tories’ promise to help young people get on the property ladder. He said that reducing interest rates and inflation would help as a step towards this, but also touched on highly-contested housing targets.
The previously mandatory goal to build 300,000 homes was watered down by parliament last year to being only an advisory target. It came after pressure on the PM from the party, however he lamented that there wasn’t “any support” across the entire party for the mandatory targets.
Sunak said: “I spent the summer talking to thousands and thousands of our members, our activists, our councillors and I also heard the same message from all of them. People wanted to talk to me about the planning system and how it was working and I don’t think there was any support for a system which imposed top-down targets on local areas without any recourse or understanding of the local circumstances.”
He added that rather than sticking to rigid targets, his government would focus on building “the right number of homes”. He added that these homes would be built in the “right places” and in the “right way".
However, his comments have been challenged by Labour’s shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy. She said: “It is utterly shameful that the Prime Minister admits he ditched housing targets because he’s too weak to stand up to Tory members.
“That decision has pushed house building off a cliff and exacerbated a housing crisis that was already causing misery for millions of families and young people, but Rishi Sunak clearly thinks that’s all okay because a few thousand Tory members are happy. We need a prime minister that puts our country before his party.”
What did Rishi Sunak say about foreign policy?
Emmanuel Macron hit the headlines earlier this week when he told Politico and Les Echos that the European Union should become a “third superpower”. He said that Europe should have “strategic autonomy”, and avoid any risk of getting “caught up in crises that are not ours”, including the possible clash between China and the US over Taiwan.
Sunak made a point to separate the UK from this proposed group, telling Conservative Home that the UK is already a “foreign policy superpower” which had already taken “robust action where necessary” against China and the threat it poses. He said: “We don’t need to be part of the EU to be a foreign policy superpower, we are a foreign policy superpower.”
His comments come after former Prime Minister Liz Truss criticised Macron for showing a “sign of weakness” after travelling to China to meet president Xi Jinping. She said that the UK should “get real” about the threat posed by China.