Gazette & Herald Column: Biggest investment in NHS for over a decade

On Monday, Cabinet met for the final time before the Parliamentary Recess in a very sunny Newcastle.  There was much to discuss after one of the busiest and eventful Parliamentary terms I can remember, and while our work will only gather pace over the summer as we prepare for Brexit, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on some of the highlights of the last few months.  

Work is ramping up on Brexit negotiations and despite all the commentary (usually from those who haven’t read it) the Chequers White Paper delivers the Brexit the country voted for and creates a “Common Market” between the UK and Europe – providing the benefits of trade that led many to vote to enter in 1975, without the command and control structures of the EU that caused many to vote to Leave in 2016!  But we are also working hard to prepare for and minimse the  damage of a No Deal exit – as a prudent and prepared Government must do.    

Our NHS was recently rated the best healthcare system in the world, and we have announced a historic five-year budget settlement, providing an extra £20.5 billion for the NHS by 2023-24 - this is the biggest capital investment in over a decade and means that as we celebrate our wonderful health service’s 70th birthday we can plan for it to deliver outstanding, world-class healthcare, free at the point of use, for our children, just as it did for us and our parents.  This wouldn’t be possible without the dedication of all the NHS staff and the new Health Secretary, the Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP has made sure that thanking them and protecting their working environments is at the top of his priority list.    

The economy continues to grow and create jobs and we are all celebrating the latest data that shows record number of people in work, wages are rising faster than prices, and unemployment at a 40-year low meaning that more people have the security of a job and are able to provide for their families – and of course a strong economy means we can invest in strong public services.

Finally, as Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, I have taken my first Bill through Parliament which will cap rip off energy tariffs from this winter, saving money for more than 11 million households.   I’ve also announced changes to the flagship £6 billion ECO scheme to improve the energy efficiency of homes occupied by people in fuel poverty and to invest more in innovation so we can create great British companies able to export their products and services to the world.  It has been a busy few months!