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Boris Johnson’s panto-style manifesto chants in Cabinet checked

The Prime Minister’s claims over hospitals, nurses and police have come under scrutiny.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds his first Cabinet meeting following the General Election in Downing Street, London.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds his first Cabinet meeting following the General Election in Downing Street, London.

By Jess Glass, PA

Boris Johnson chaired his first new Cabinet with a pantomime-style call and response of manifesto pledges about hospitals, policing and nurses.

The pledges were regular calls from the Prime Minister on the election campaign trail, but these have come under scrutiny.

– The Prime Minister asked Cabinet: “How many new hospitals are we going to build?”

“Forty,” the ministers replied in unison.

Mr Johnson said: “Correct.”

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The close-to-Christmas cabinet felt festive with the panto-style call and response (Matt Dunham/PA Wire)

During the campaign, it emerged that while £2.7 billion has been allocated to six hospital trusts for building projects for completion by 2025, the other 34 projects for delivery by 2030 have so far been promised £100 million of “seed funding”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the “seed funding” will allow hospital trusts to carry out design and planning work in preparation for the moment funds become available to start construction.

The Prime Minister was himself pressed on whether a renovated hospital on an existing site could actually be classed as a “new” hospital.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari on November 29, Mr Johnson said: “Let me give you an example, in my own constituency (Uxbridge and South Ruislip) we have a fantastic hospital – Hillingdon Hospital – we’re going to rebuild it, it’s going to be totally new.

“In your conception, is that a new a hospital or is that an old hospital that it is being rebuilt? My view is, it is a new hospital.”

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock commented on the drizzle in Downing Street as he arrived for the cabinet meeting (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

– Mr Johnson then asked Cabinet: “How many more nurses are we going to hire?”

Ministers chanted together: “50,000.”

“You know the answers,” Mr Johnson replied, clearly in good spirits.

This pledge has been criticised as it includes at least 19,000 nurses who will be retained or will rejoin after leaving the profession rather than being hired, according to independent fact-checking charity Full Fact.

The Royal College of Nursing estimates there is a shortage of 43,000 registered nurses.

Only 19,000 are expected to benefit from a reintroduced nurse bursary – which was originally scrapped by the Conservatives.

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Nicky Morgan was welcomed back to the cabinet with cheers and laughter (Matt Dunham/PA Wire)

In March, the Royal College of Nursing said since the Government scrapped the bursary for nursing students in 2017, the number of students taking nursing degree courses has dropped by almost 1,000 and applications have fallen by 30%.

Last month, Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan said that a “misreading” of the Tory manifesto may have caused people to believe the party would pledge 50,000 new nurses.

– Mr Johnson also addressed policing in the Cabinet call-and-response.

“How many more police?”

The Cabinet replied: “20,000.”

The Conservatives pledged to recruit the officers over the next three years.

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Police officers in England and Wales (PA Graphics)

However, 21,000 officers have left the profession since the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government came into power in 2010 amid budget cuts, according to Full Fact.

“The number of police officers in England and Wales is at close to the lowest recorded level since the early 1980s,” the charity said.

Full Fact also said the loss since 2010 represents a 14% fall in the number of officers. When accounting for population growth, the number of officers per person has fallen by 19%.

PA

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