Rishi Sunak spoke to Laura Kuenssberg about NHS and inflation
Rishi Sonak speaks about NHSin, inflation and Russia in Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg

The prime minister had to defend his government’s policies on a range of issues in a BBC interview with Laura Kuenssberg. He was asked about the controversial Rwanda deportation scheme, the long NHS waiting lists, the rising inflation and the scandal over PPE contracts.

With a general election looming, and the Conservatives lagging behind Labour in the polls, Sunak had to convince the public that he is the best leader for the country. Kuenssberg pressed him for clear answers, and sometimes had to interrupt him when he went off topic.

Sunak tried to sound positive, saying that the country has “turned a corner” and that his plan is working. He also dismissed the rumours of a Tory rebellion, saying that his party is united behind him.

PM stands by Rwanda plan despite doubts

Sunak said he fully supports the government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda, even though he had questioned its value and effectiveness when he was chancellor.

The BBC reported that Sunak had raised concerns about the Rwanda scheme in March 2022, saying that it was not worth the money and that it would not deter migrants from crossing the Channel.

Sunak told Kuenssberg that he was just doing his job as chancellor, and that he had to scrutinise every proposal that involved taxpayers’ money. He said that he did not oppose the Rwanda scheme, and that he had shown his commitment to it by launching a similar scheme with Albania when he became prime minister.

He also said that the government would introduce a new law that would allow ministers to ignore the European Court of Human Rights, which had stopped a Rwanda flight in June 2022.

PM blames striking doctors for NHS delays

Sunak admitted that the NHS waiting lists were “far too long”, and that he was responsible for them.

But he also blamed the junior doctors who have been on strike over their pay for causing the delays. He said that the government had invested a lot of money in the NHS, and had hired more doctors and nurses, and built more diagnostic centres.

He said that the NHS was treating more people, but that the strikes had slowed down the progress. He pointed out that the waiting lists had dropped by 65,000 in October 2022, when there were no strikes.

He said that the government had reached an agreement with all the other NHS staff, and urged the junior doctors to end their strike and negotiate a deal. He said that the waiting lists would come down if there were no more strikes.

Sunak tries to calm viewer who thinks ‘nothing is working’ in Britain. The PM responded to a viewer who asked him why he thought “nothing in Britain is working”, from the NHS to the roads.

Sunak said he understood the frustration, but he also highlighted the achievements of his government. He said the UK had avoided a deep recession, reduced inflation by more than half, and introduced £20bn of tax cuts this weekend.

He said the UK had made progress, and that his plan was working. He urged people to stick to it. Kuenssberg challenged him on his tax claims, saying that the richest and the poorest were not getting any tax relief, and that the overall tax burden was at a record high.

Sunak said the average person earning £35,000 a year would get a tax cut of £450, which was significant. He said 27 million workers would benefit from his tax cuts this weekend.

PM promises to reform welfare system and get people into work

Sunak said he wanted to overhaul the welfare system, which he said was not working as it should. He said he was concerned by the rise in the number of people who were deemed unfit for work, and that he believed in the value of hard work.

He said the welfare system had not been reformed in the last decade, and that the number of people who were signed off had tripled. He asked if the country was really three times sicker than it was 10 years ago. He said the answer was no.

He said his government would bring in reforms that would look more closely at the eligibility of people who were signed off sick, and that this would apply to new cases. He said this was about fairness, and making sure that everyone who could work, did work. He said this was a Conservative approach, and one that was right for the country.

Sunak dismisses fears of 53 Tory MPs quitting before election. As the Tories are trailing in the polls, and some Conservative MPs have questioned Sunak’s leadership, Kuenssberg asked him about some possible Tory election slogans. They included, ‘Secure the recovery’, ‘Things can only get better’ and ‘We’re a bit rubbish but the other lot would be tonnes worse’.

She also said that former energy minister Chris Skidmore had announced his resignation over a new law that would promote new oil and gas production. She said that 53 Tory MPs had already said they would stand down. Sunak said he was not worried by this, and that he was confident in his vision for the country.

He said the country had faced a lot of challenges in the last year or two, such as COVID, the Ukraine war and the energy crisis, but he also said that the country had turned a corner. He said the country was moving in the right direction, and that his plans were delivering the long-term change the country needed. He said he had to stick to the plan, because the plan was working. He said the debate over his leadership was “not about personalities, but about policies. And I believe our policies are the best for the country.”


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