Rishi Sunak is MP for Richmond (Yorks), and is a former Chancellor of the Exchequer.
One thing I learned when I was Chancellor is that you have to learn to say “no” a lot.
This sometimes made me unpopular in Government, but as Mrs Thatcher taught us: saying yes is the easy option, but not necessarily the right one.
And she was right. I didn’t get into politics to say what sounds good. I got into politics because I believe in public service and wanted to give back to the country that gave me and my family the opportunity for a better life. And that means sometimes taking the difficult road, landing the less popular message, telling the truth.
And there are two truths I want to share with all the members of our party today. The first is that I will cut taxes once we have gripped inflation.
Yes, it’s true that while in government I had to find a way to pay for some of the damage covid had done to our economy. But I also set in train a series of tax cuts that were progressive and rewarded work. I cut the Universal Credit taper rate, I fully funded the first cut to income tax in more than a decade. And yesterday I set out the next steps of my radical tax vision.
If I am elected leader of our party and Prime Minister of our great country I will cut the basic rate of income tax from 20p as it stands today to just 16p by the end of the next Parliament. That represents a 20 per cent cut – the largest cut to income tax in 30 years. And I believe that is the right tax to cut because as Conservatives we believe that hard work should pay.
But I won’t do this before inflation is gripped. High inflation is our worst enemy. It puts prices up for families and interest rates will be forced up meaning higher payments for homeowners on their mortgages.
I’m not going to borrow to pay for tax cuts. Not because I don’t want to – it would make my life much easier if I did. No, I won’t because it is not the moral or right thing to do. Adding to borrowing will only stoke inflation, make the economic challenges we face even worse and leave the bill for our children and grandchildren to pay.
The second truth I’m going to share with you today, is that we as a Government need to stop spending money and start getting value for money.
Throughout my time as a minister I took the view that even if something might be right in principle, we had to be fully confident that the plan was deliverable, not least because it’s yours – the taxpayers’ money we were spending – not the Government’s.
As a team we achieved a huge amount in government, delivering on the promises we made in 2019 to the British electorate while also dealing with a once in a generation pandemic. Getting Brexit done, investing record sums in public services to build more hospitals, hire more police and bring immigration under control.
But latterly, I became concerned about the focus of spending money on public services rather than reforming them.
As Conservatives, we believe in sound money and crucially value for money. I simply don’t think it is right to spend without getting results and better outputs for the public as a result.
The truth is we need a leaner, more effective government machine that delivers real results for you.
In Whitehall when under pressure on a problem, answers given to Parliament and the media are often focused on money spent not outputs achieved. That cannot be right.
So if I am elected leader of our party, there will be a shift in the approach in the whole of my Government. We won’t measure success by money out the door, but by what we get for what we’ve put in.
And by that I mean NHS waiting lists actually coming down, passports being issued in time for school holidays, your children being able to get a driving test before their theory expires.
We need to recapture the reforming zeal that previous Conservative governments have shown. And if I am elected as Prime Minister, that is what I will work night and day to do.
So that is my pledge to you: honesty, determination and the right economic plan to take our country forward and make the United Kingdom the most prosperous place in the world.