Government to enshrine NHS spending boost in law

Written by Beckie Smith on 13 December 2019 in News
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Legislation lined up after Johnson promises to make the NHS "number one priority"

Queen's Speech to come just two months after her last one in October. Photo: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Boris Johnson will put the government's pledge to boost spending on the NHS into law in the Queen's Speech on Thursday, No.10 has said, as the government prepares for a fresh vote on the prime minister's Brexit deal.

The commitment on funding for the health service – which Johnson said on Friday would top the list of his freshly-elected majority government's priorities – will be included in a Queen's Speech that will be largely consistent with the one delivered in October, No.10 briefed on Saturday.

It will also include additional commitments on reforming the criminal justice system, after Johnson promised new laws on minimum sentencing for serious criminals following the terror attack in London Bridge this month.


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Also on the agenda will be plans to improve train services for passengers during rail strikes, greater protections or renters, and a ban on local authorities boycotting products from other countries, including Israel.

The government's immediate legislative priority will be will reintroduce the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in a bid to push through Johnson's Brexit deal with the EU ahead of the UK's planned departure from the EU on 31 January.

A vote is expected later this week on the bill, which is likely to pass after the Conservatives' huge general election victory handed Johnson's party a parliamentary majority last week.

The vote comes after Johnson promised not to ignore members of the public who want to remain in the European Union in his negotiations with the bloc.

In a speech outside Downing Street on Friday, Johnson directly addressed pro-Remain voters who did not back him in Thursday's poll.

“I want you to know that we in this one nation Conservative government will never ignore your good and positive feelings of warmth and sympathy towards the other nations of Europe, because now is the moment – precisely as we leave the EU – to let those natural feelings find renewed expression in building a new partnership, which is one of the great projects for next year,” he said.

“And, as we work together with the EU, as friends and sovereign equals, tackling climate change and terrorism and building academic and scientific cooperation, redoubling our trading relationship, I frankly urge everyone on either side of what [is], after three and a half years after all, an increasingly arid argument, I urge everyone to find closure and let the healing begin.”

However, he stressed that the parliamentary majority his party had won gave had created "an overwhelming mandate, from this election, to get Brexit done and we will honour that mandate by 31 January".

Earlier the same day, Johnson said the election result demonstrated that delivering Brexit was “unarguable decision of the British people”.

“And not just get Brexit done but to unite this country and to take it forward and to focus on the priorities of the British people," he said.

“I believe – in fact I know, because I have heard it loud and clear from every corner of the country – that the overwhelming priority of the British people now is that we should focus above all on the NHS, that simple and beautiful idea that represents the best of our country,” he added.

Johnson repeated previous announcements that his party would deliver the “biggest cash ever cash boost” for the NHS, which he had said would pay for 50,000 more nurses – after which it emerged that the total was not in fact the largest in real terms, and that 18,000 of the nurses would not be new.

Johnson also repeated his promise – made in September – to fund 40 new hospitals to the tune of £13bn over the next decade. However, further scrutiny revealed that the government has so far committed only £2.7bn for building projects to just six hospital trusts over the next five years. The six projects are not all for entirely new hospitals, as some are to refurbish or extend existing buildings.

Speaking outside No.10 on Friday, Johnson added: “As well as providing better schools, safer streets, and in the next few weeks and months we will be bringing forward proposals to transform this country with better infrastructure, better education, better technology.”

Johnson also promised to “unite and level up” the country, “delivering opportunity across the entire nation”.

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Beckie Smith
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Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith.

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