Boris to 'unleash potential of entire country' in £5bn rebuild

Boris Johnson pledged to “unleash” the potential of the “entire country” in the economic fight back from the Depression caused by Covid-19 as he gave a key note speech.

The Prime minister is unveiling a £5billion package of investment in schools, hospitals roads and other major schemes.

The Prime Minister said: “I believe in building people up: giving everyone growing up in this country the opportunity they need.

“Whoever you are, whatever your ethnicity, whatever your background, and there are certain things that are indispensable for that opportunity: the hospital you’re born in, the schools you go to, the safety of the streets where you grow up.

“And this Government has not forgotten that we were elected to build 40 new hospitals – and we will. Matt Hancock is setting out the list in the next few days, and that is just the beginning.”

Mr Johnson said the Government intends to spend £5 billion “to accelerate infrastructure projects”.

The announcements included:

– £1.5 billion to be allocated this year to hospital maintenance;

– More than £1 billion for a 10-year school rebuilding programme;

– £100 million to be spent on road projects;

– £900 million for “shovel-ready” local growth projects in England during 2020/21.

Mr Johnson also said the Government would not “wait” to fix the problems in social care, and said plans were being finalised.

He added: “It’s time that the system recognised that talent and genius are expressed as much by hand and by eye as they are by a spreadsheet or an essay.”

Referencing figures which suggest a pupil from a London state school is 50% more likely to go to a top university than one in the West Midlands, he said: “That is not only unjust – it is such a waste of human talent.

“We will unleash the potential of the entire country.”

Mr Johnson has said Britain needs to be able to move with “levels of energy and speed that we have not needed for generations” in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Delivering a keynote speech at a technical college in Dudley, West Midlands, the Prime Minister said: “It may seem a bit premature to make a speech now about Britain after Covid when that deceptively nasty disease is still rampant in other countries and when global case numbers are growing fast.

“And when many in this country are nervous, rightly, about more outbreaks – whether national or local – like the flareup in Leicester.

“Where, as I promised, we are putting on the breaks, and I thank the people of Leicester for their forbearance.

“And yet we cannot continue simply to be prisoners of this crisis. We are preparing now, slowly, cautiously, to come out of hibernation and I believe it is absolutely vital for us to set out the way ahead so that everyone can think and plan for the future: short, medium and long-term.

“Because if the Covid crisis has taught us one thing: it’s that this country needs to be ready for what may be coming, and we need to be able to move with levels of energy and speed that we have not needed for generations.”

He said the nation must act now in “this interval” to plan the response to the coronavirus crisis and fix the problems “most brutally illuminated in that Covid lightning flash”.

He said: “We all knew when we went into lockdown that there would be huge economic costs, we could see what would happen and yet we did it, the United Kingdom, in a display of solidarity not seen since the Second World War.

“And so today we must combine that energy and drive and that concentrated burst of collective willpower that protected the NHS and controlled the virus and saved literally hundreds of thousands of lives and we must work fast because we’ve already seen the vertiginous drop in GDP and we know that people are worried now about their jobs and their businesses.

“And we’re waiting as if between the flash of lightning and the thunderclap with our hearts in our mouths for the full economic reverberations to appear.

“And so we must use this moment now, this interval to plan our response and to fix of course the problems that were most brutally illuminated in that Covid lightning flash.”

He listed these as the social care system and the parts of Government “that seemed to respond so sluggishly”.

The PM said: “Next week, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak will be setting out our immediate plan to support the economy through the first phase of the recovery.”

Boris Johnson said: “But this moment also gives us a much greater chance to be radical.

“And to do things differently.

“To build back better and to build back bolder.

“And so we will be doubling down on our strategy.

“We will double down on levelling up – if you can make sense of that.”

The PM said: “When I say level up, I don’t mean attacking our great companies. I don’t mean impeding the success of London.

“Or launching some punitive raid on the wealth creators.

“I don’t believe in tearing people down any more than I believe in tearing down statues that are part of our heritage.

“Let alone the statue of our greatest wartime leader.

“I believe in building people up.

“Giving everyone growing up in this country the opportunity they need.”

Mr Johnson said an “infrastructure revolution” will pave the way to solve the failure to build sufficient homes.

“It is this infrastructure revolution that will allow us also to end that other chronic failure of the British state: decade after decade in which we have failed to build enough homes,” he said.

He pledged radical reforms to the planning system to get more homes built.

He said: “It’s to galvanise this whole process that this Government will bring forward the most radical reforms of our planning system since the end of the Second World War.”

Mr Johnson said: “I want you to know that this Government not only has a vision to change this country for the better, we have a mission to unite and to level up.

“I just serve notice that we will not be responding to this crisis with what people call austerity.”

He said he has set up “Project Speed” with Chancellor Rishi Sunak in order to “scythe through red tape and get things done” in order to build better, greener and faster.

Mr Johnson said thousands of “high-paid, high-skilled jobs” would be created because “the furloughing cannot go on forever” and many jobs “are also not coming back”.

“Because we know in our hearts that the furloughing cannot go on forever and as the economy recovers we also know that jobs that many people had in January are also not coming back or at least not in that form,” he said.

“And we know that that’s the biggest and most immediate economic challenge that we face.”

An “opportunity guarantee” will be offered so that every young person has the chance of apprenticeships or in-work placements, he said.

He warned that the dangers of coronavirus “have not gone away” – and said Covid-19 is “circling like a shark in the water”.

The PM said he wanted to “get back to life as normal… as fast as possible”, but cautioned: “As we approach July 4, I must say that the dangers – as we can see in Leicester – the dangers have not gone away.

“The virus is out there – still circling like a shark in the water. And it will take all our collective discipline and resolve to keep that virus at bay.”

Mr Johnson said his “fair deal” for the British people may sound like “a prodigious amount of Government intervention” but that he is no communist.

“It’s time now not just for a new deal but for a fair deal for the British people,” he said.

“My friends, I am not a communist. I believe it is also the job of Government to create the conditions for free market enterprise.”

The Government is “determined to use this crisis finally to tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades”, Mr Johnson pledged.

He said: “To build the homes, to fix the NHS, to solve social care, to tackle the skills crisis, to mend the indefensible gap in opportunity and productivity and connectivity between the regions of the UK.

“To unite and level up, and to that end we will build, build, build.

“Build back better, build back greener, build back faster. And to do that at the pace that this moment requires, we need now to distil the very best of the psychic energy of the last few months.

“Let’s take the zap and elan of the armed services who helped to build the Nightingales. Let’s take the selflessness and the love of the health and the care workers and the charities.

“The public spirit and the good humour of the entire population. And let’s brew them together with the superhuman energy of Captain Tom – bounding around his garden at the age of 100 and raising millions for charity.

“Let’s take that combination, that spirit: bottle it, swig it. And I believe we will have found if not quite a magic potion, at least the right formula to get us through these dark times.”

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