Rishi Sunak was grilled by a GB News audience over tax cuts, the NHS and his Rwanda plan on Monday as he insisted that he “understood” the public’s frustration after 14 years of Conservative Government.
The Prime Minister faced a cross section of voters in Co Durham in front of a live TV audience.
During the event, he was pressed on NHS backlogs, while also being forced to defend his flagship Rwanda policy.
Mr Sunak was asked by one voter why he was sticking to the Rwanda plan “when public documentation shows it isn’t working and that it’s not going to work”.
He replied: “In order to fully solve this problem, we need a deterrent. We need to be able to say pretty simply and unequivocally that if you come to our country illegally, you won’t get to stay.
“We want to be able to remove you either to your home country if it’s safe, like we’ve done with Albania, and for everyone else we need an alternative and that’s what Rwanda is about.
“I’m absolutely committed to getting this bill through parliament and getting this scheme up and running.”
Elsewhere during the show, Mr Sunak blamed the pandemic for the backlog facing the NHS.
He said: “Whoever was prime minister, whoever was standing here tonight, there will be backlogs in the NHS because of what happened. You all know that, you are fair-minded people.”
Mr Sunak insisted ministers were investing “more money than the NHS has ever had”, and large numbers of doctors and nurses were being trained for the long term.
He added: “I probably will not be around in the 14 years that it takes to train the consultant that we’re now starting to invest in, but it’s the right long-term thing to do for our country, which is why I’ve done it.”
Asked in the final few minutes about tax, he repeated his message that the Government would cut it when it is “responsible”.
The Prime Minister faces potentially gloomy economic numbers later this week, with official figures on Thursday set to show whether the UK has slipped into a recession.
But Mr Sunak told GB News viewers: “When it’s responsible to do so, of course we want to keep cutting your taxes because that is important to me, because it’s as I said about rewarding hard work, but it’s got to be done as part of a plan, and because we’ve got a plan and that plan, as I said right at the beginning, is starting to work.
“You can see it if we stick with it, then there are better times ahead.”