Sunak seeks support for Ukraine as Starmer and Streeting probed on NHS funding

Sunak seeks support for Ukraine as Starmer and Streeting probed on NHS funding

Rishi Sunak is to remain absent from the campaign trail for another day as Sir Keir Starmer faces questions on what overall funding the NHS will receive under a Labour Government.

After two days at the G7 summit in Italy, Mr Sunak will remain off the campaign trail as he attends a Ukraine Peace conference in Switzerland.

At a G7 press conference in Italy on Friday, the Prime Minister said the leaders had reached a “historic breakthrough” by agreeing a loan for Ukraine that will be funded by frozen Russian assets in Europe.

He said: “This is just and it is right. But true justice will only come when Russia leaves Ukraine.

“Tomorrow I will be travelling to the Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland.

“Our goal is peace. But let us not not confuse peace with surrender. Putin’s Russia is the aggressor.”

Asked if he would be able to ensure the UK’s commitment to Ukraine regardless of the outcome of the General Election, Mr Sunak highlighted his party’s commitment to spending 2.5% of GDP on defence.

He said: “I can only assure President Zelensky about what I would do if I was Prime Minister, but I am able to give him that reassurance that our support for Ukraine will continue not just today, but for as long as it takes but I can make that commitment to him because I’ve made the decision to increase defence spending.”

He added: “There’s a Nato summit coming up.

“If I’m the Prime Minister, I will be able to go to that summit and lead and ask others to follow our leadership and that will unlock potentially up to £114 billion of extra investment in defence across the alliance.

“So that’s the choice for everyone in this election. UK investing more under me to keep us safe, giving us that leadership around the world which will have others invest more, and send a very strong message of deterrence to our adversaries.”

G7 summit
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking during a press conference at the G7 leaders’ summit at the Borgo Egnazia resort, in Puglia, Apulia, Italy (Christopher Furlong/PA)

Mr Sunak also had a bi-lateral meeting with US President Joe Biden on Friday.

A Downing Street spokesperson said they discussed “making Russia pay for its illegal war in Ukraine” and the situation in the Middle East as they “agreed that Hamas should accept the deal and release the hostages.”

Back in the UK, Sir Keir may face questions on his party’s numbers on NHS waiting lists as he campaigns with the party’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting.

In a statement, Mr Streeting repeated a claim which his party earlier made – that NHS waiting lists would hit 10 million under the Conservatives – something which Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) economist Max Warner said was “highly unlikely” in his May analysis.

The overall NHS waiting list climbed to an estimated 7.57 million treatments at the end of April, affecting 6.33 million patients, according to NHS England figures released on Thursday.

Mr Warner said Labour’s commitment to eliminating elective waiting times above 18 weeks by the end of the next parliament “would represent a major improvement, undoing nearly a decade of worsening in NHS waiting times in just five years.”

He said: “But delivering on all these promises would be expensive: it would almost certainly require real-terms funding growth upwards of 3% per year.

“Beyond some small amounts of ‘additional’ funding, the Labour manifesto provides no detail about the overall funding the NHS will receive in the next parliament.”

Mr Streeting will frame the choice for patients under the Tories: “Pain or private?”

He will claim that “patients face double taxation on health: they pay their taxes, and then pay the Tory health tax if they want to be treated on time”.

General Election campaign 2024
Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer and shadow health secretary Wes Streeting on the General Election campaign trail (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Elsewhere, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey will trail his party’s police and crime policies in Surrey, where the analysts claimed just 255 car thefts, about 20%, had been solved since the last election.

His party has pledged to scrap elected police and crime commissioners (PCC) to unlock money which they say could bolster frontline policing.

Sir Ed said: “We are seeing a car theft epidemic after years of Conservative chaos and failing home secretaries who have decimated frontline policing.”