UK Politics

The Prime Minister’s speech: Build, build, build

BY Boris Johnson   /  30 June 2020

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, 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 flare-up in Leicester where, as I promised, we are putting on the brakes – 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 and cautiously to come out of hibernation and I believe it is absolutely vital for us now 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 is 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.

And I know that there are plenty of things that people say and will say that we got wrong, and we owe that discussion and that honesty to the tens of thousands who have died before their time, to the families who have lost loved ones, and of course there must be time to learn the lessons, and we will.

But I also know that some things went right – and emphatically right.

I think of the speed and efficiency with which we put up the Nightingales – ten days for a hospital. I think of the drive and inventiveness of the British companies who rose to the ventilator challenge, with three brand new production lines called into being within the space of eight weeks, with a new model of ventilator developed in March and granted regulatory approval in weeks, and 9,500 of them now made.

I pay tribute to the pace at which Oxford university managed to perform the trials for dexamethasone, the world’s first demonstrably life-saving treatment for the disease.

I am in awe of the problem-crunching fury with which HMRC and the Treasury created the furlough scheme and all the other means of support – world-leading standards of protection for jobs and incomes set up in a matter of days.

There were brilliant and determined individuals who more than rose to the challenge of this crisis. There were thousands and thousands who put their hearts and souls into it, and yet our debt is not just to them.

It is not just even to the devotion and love of the NHS and the care workers who saved so many lives, including my own.

There was one big reason in the end that we were able to avert a far worse disaster, and that was because the whole of society came together to make a sacrifice on behalf of those who might be particularly vulnerable – particularly the elderly.

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

And so today we must combine that energy and drive with that concentrated burst of collective willpower that protected the NHS, controlled the virus and saved literally hundreds of thousands of lives.

And we must work fast, because we have already seen the vertiginous drop in GDP, and we know that people are worried now about their jobs and their businesses, and we are 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 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:

The problems in our social care system, the parts of government that seemed to respond so sluggishly, so that sometimes it seemed like that recurring bad dream when you are telling your feet to run and your feet won’t move.

And yet we must also go further and realise that if we are to recover fully, if we are to deal with the coming economic aftershock, then this Covid crisis is also the moment to address the problems in our country that we have failed to tackle for decades, because it is one of the most extraordinary features of the UK – in so many ways the greatest place on earth – that we tolerate such yawning gaps between the best and the rest.

We have some of the best and most productive companies in the world – and yet we are not as nationally productive as many of our global competitors.

We have the world’s most brilliant medical minds, the world’s best pharmaceutical companies, our doctors and treatments are the best in the world, and yet we have so many millions who have to wait for too long to see their GP – even before the new waiting lists produced by the crisis.

We have umpteen fantastic, globally outstanding universities, and yet too many degree courses are not now delivering value, and for a century we have failed to invest enough in further education and give young people the practical training and further education they need.

We have a capital city that was, is and will be in so many ways the capital of the world – theatre, finance, tech, restaurants – you name it, London leads the world.

And yet too many parts of this country have felt left behind, neglected, unloved, as though someone had taken a strategic decision that their fate did not matter as much as the metropolis.

So 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; the mission on which we were elected last year.

And we have a plan. And in advancing that plan now I just serve notice that we will not be responding to this crisis with what people called “austerity”.

We are not going to to cheese-pare our way out of trouble, because the world has moved on since 2008.

And we not only face a new and in some ways a far bigger challenge.

And I can tell everybody, businesses that next week the Chancellor will be setting out our immediate plan to support the economy through the first phase of our recovery.

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.

And when I say level up, I don’t mean attacking our great companies, I don’t mean impeding the success of London – far from it – 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 a statue of our greatest wartime leader.

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 are 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.

We will continue and step up the biggest ever programme of funding the NHS.

And we won’t wait to fix the problem of social care that every government has flunked for the last 30 years. We will end the injustice that some people have to sell their homes to finance the costs of their care while others don’t. We are finalising our plans and we will build a cross-party consensus.

We will look after those who have looked after us and at the same time we will build the foundations now for future prosperity to make this country – a Britain that is fully independent and self-governing for the first time in 45 years, the most attractive place to live and to invest and to set up a company, with the most motivated and highly skilled workforce.

And so we are investing massively now in education, with over £14bn for primary and secondary education between now and 2023, and today with a new ten year school building programme beginning now with £1bn for the first 50 schools, and a vast £1.5 bn programme of refurbishing our dilapidated Further Education sector – dilapidated in many places, but not here of course.

Because it is time 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.

So when I say unite and level up, when I say build up people and build up talent, I want to end the current injustice that means a pupil from a London state school is now 50 per cent more likely to go to a top university than a pupil from the west midlands.

And that is not only unjust – it is such a waste of human talent.

We will unleash the potential of the entire country, and that means basic things, cracking down again on the crime that blights too many streets and too many lives and we will get on with our plan to recruit 20,000 more police officers – we have already found 3,000 and I thank them for everything they are doing and have done in this crisis.

And we will back our police all the way and give our justice system the powers we need to end the lunacy that stops us – for instance – deporting some violent offenders, just as we have already stopped the automatic early release of terrorists.

We will make this country safer, we will build the hospitals, build the schools and the colleges.

But we will also build back greener and build a more beautiful Britain. We will protect the landscape with flood defences and plant 30,000 hectares of trees every year, creating a new patchwork of woodlands to enchant and re-energise the soul.

And in those towns that feel left behind we have plans to invest in their centres, with new academy schools, new green buses, new broadband. And we want to make them places where people have the confidence to stay, to raise their families and to start businesses, and not to feel that the action is all in the cities or the metropolis.

And yet I don’t think that this crisis has ended the desire or need to move around swiftly and efficiently.

We have learned the wonders of Zoom and MS Teams, the pleasure of muting or unmuting our colleagues at key moments – but we still need to travel.

And more than ever the time has come when we must unite and level up in the most basic way possible, not just with HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, but with better roads, better rail, unblocking the central Manchester bottleneck that delays services across the north and 4000 brand new zero carbon buses, and a massive new plan for cycleways.

And we will build and rebuild those vital connexions to every part of the UK because now is the moment to strengthen that incredible partnership between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

And I know that some have sometimes played up the legitimate variations in the response between the devolved administrations, but when you look at the whole effort you can see the absolutely vital role of that union and that partnership.

It is our fantastic UK armed services that have played such a crucial role in this crisis, running the test centres, building the hospitals, transporting people from the Shetlands to the right Covid wards.

It was the might of the UK Treasury that set up that furlough scheme – in all corners of the country – and sent massive and immediate extra funding to all four parts of the UK.

I believe the union has more than showed its worth, and a prosperous and united Kingdom must be a connected Kingdom.

And that is why we are now accelerating projects from South West to the North East from Wales, to Scotland, to Northern Ireland, and to drive economic growth in all parts of the country.

We will carry out a study of all future road, rail, air and cross-sea links between our all our four parts of the UK.

When did a government first promise to dual the A1 to Scotland ? It was 1992. Well this government is going to do it.

And it is this infrastructure revolution that will allow us to end that other chronic failure of the British state, decade after decade, in which we have failed to build enough homes.

We will build fantastic new homes on brownfield sites and other areas that with better transport and other infrastructure could frankly be suitable and right for development, and address that intergenerational injustice, and help young people get on the housing ladder in the way that their parents and grandparents could.

And it is to galvanise this whole process that this government will shortly bring forward the most radical reforms of our planning system since the end of the Second World War.

Yes, we will insist on beautiful and low carbon homes.

But Covid has taught us the cost of delay.

Why does UK public procurement take 50% longer than in Germany? Why are UK capital costs typically between 10 and 30% higher than other European projects? Why is HS2 – transformational though it will be – going to cost us the equivalent of the GDP of Sri Lanka? Why are we so slow at building homes by comparison with other European countries?

In 2018 we built 2.25 homes per 1,000 people. Germany managed 3.6, the Netherlands 3.8, France 6.8.

I tell you why – because time is money, and the newt-counting delays in our system are a massive drag on the productivity and the prosperity of this country.

And so we will build better and build greener, but we will also build faster, and that is why the Chancellor and I have set up Project Speed to scythe through red tape and get things done.

And with every home we make, every mile of full fibre broadband that we lay, with every flood-defending culvert that we dig, with every railway station, hospital or school that we build, we will of course be tackling the next wave of this crisis by helping to create thousands of high-paid high-skilled jobs.

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

And we know that is our biggest and most immediate economic challenge that we face.

And so we will offer an Opportunity Guarantee so that every young person has the chance of apprenticeship or an in-work placement, so that they maintain the skills and confidence they need to find the job that is right for them.

I am conscious as I say all this that it sounds like a prodigious amount of government intervention. It sounds like a New Deal.

And all I can say is that if so, then that is how it is meant to sound and to be, because that is what the times demand.

A government that is powerful and determined and that puts its arms around people at a time of crisis, that tackles homelessness, the inequalities that drive people to food banks.

Because it is time now not just for a New Deal but a Fair Deal for the British people.

And we can do all this now partly because of the prudent management of the economy in the last ten years, but also because we are planning to invest now, when the cost of borrowing allows it, and when the returns are greatest.

Because that is the way both now and in the medium term to drive the growth, to fuel the animal spirits and the long-term business investment on which our future prosperity depends.

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

And yes of course we clap for our NHS, but under this government we also applaud those who make our NHS possible – our innovators, our wealth creators, our capitalists and financiers.

Because in the end it is their willingness to take risks with their own money that will be crucial for our future success.

This is Dudley, the birthplace of Abraham Darby, who massively accelerated the Industrial Revolution by using coke instead of charcoal to produce pig iron.

(It may not sound like it, but it’s also the greener option).

And today Dudley remains at the cutting edge of green technology that is increasingly driving the whole of the UK economy.

It was here in 2011 that a company called Westfield produced the world’s first commercially viable electric racing car, and the whole of the West Midlands is now a global centre of battery technology and batteries for EVs.

And that is the vision of Mayor Andy Street, and we will back that vision.

This is a government that backs Britain, and believes in British innovation.

And this summer we will be creating a new science funding agency to back high risk, high reward projects, because in the next 100 years the most successful societies will be the most innovative societies, and we in this country have the knack of innovation.

We lead the world in quantum computing, in life sciences, in genomics, in AI, space satellites, net zero planes, and in the long term solutions to global warming, wind, solar, hydrogen technology, carbon capture and storage, nuclear.

And as part of our mission to reach Net Zero CO2 emissions by 2050, we should set ourselves the goal now of producing the world’s first zero emission long haul passenger plane.

Jet Zero, let’s do it.

And though we are no longer a military superpower we can be a science superpower.

But we must end the chasm between invention and application.

That means a brilliant British discovery disappears to California and becomes a billion dollar American company, or a Chinese company, and we need now a new dynamic commercial spirit to make the most of UK breakthroughs so that British ideas produce new British industries and British jobs.

And yet to achieve all that from where we are now we must get on first with the hard and painstaking work of re-opening our economy, and I feel the urgency and impatience of all those sectors that are still being held back – the theatres, the arts, the salons, the gyms, the cricket clubs, sectors in which we lead the world, and yet which suffer because they depend on the very physical proximity and contact that Covid makes so difficult.

And I say to everybody in those sectors we will get you going as fast as we can. We will get life back to normal for as many as possible as fast as possible.

But as we approach July 4 I am afraid that the dangers – as we can see in Leicester – 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.

And if we can and get on to the next phase of recovery then we can get on all the faster to the next phase, and to the delivery of our plan.

This is a government that is wholly committed not just to defeating coronavirus, but to using this crisis finally to tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades.

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 élan 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.

And I must stress that there will still be some tough times ahead, and to work this whole plan through will take effort, and nerve, and patience.

And no we won’t get everything right. We certainly won’t get everything right first time. But this is the moment to be ambitious, to believe in Britain, to rise to the scale of the challenge and the opportunity.

If we deliver this plan together, then we will together build our way back to health.

We will not just bounce back.

We will bounce forward – stronger and better and more united than ever before.

Thank you all very much.


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