Monday 5 October 2020 12:09 pm

In full: Rishi Sunak's virtual Conservative conference speech

Chancellor Rishi Sunak today addressed Conservative virtual conference, pledging to support entrepreneurs but warning of difficult times ahead. Here’s the full speech:

“Politics is a team sport”

“Being appointed Chancellor in February this year was an immense honour.

Even though my first conference speech as Chancellor isn’t quite how I expected it to be, it remains a privilege to talk to you today.

And I am here today because of so many different people.

My family, whose love sustains me.

My colleagues in Government and in Parliament, whose backing has never wavered.

My association in Richmond, North Yorkshire, who placed their trust in me, and gave me their loyalty, support and this opportunity to serve. 

Read more: Sunak warns Boris against further lockdown

And my party, whose members, councillors and activists worked tirelessly to deliver a Conservative government in December last year.

Politics is a team sport, and there is always a multitude of hardworking people behind any effort.

So, I want to thank my ministerial team; Steve, Jessie, John, Kemi, Theo, Claire and James.

I also want to thank my predecessors: George, Phillip and Sajid.

It is only because of ten years of sound Conservative management of our economy that this government has been able to act with the pace and scale we have in responding to Coronavirus.

And I want to thank the Prime Minister, for entrusting me with this job and whose friendship has been invaluable.

I’ve seen up close the burden the Prime Minister carries.

We all know he has an ability to connect with people in a way few politicians manage.

It is a special and rare quality.

But what the commentators don’t see, the thing I see, is the concern and care he feels, every day, for the wellbeing of the people of our country.

Yes, it’s been difficult, challenges are part of the job, but on the big calls, in the big moments, Boris Johnson has got it right and we need that leadership.

Because we are only part way through this crisis.

What began in March as a health emergency has grown and now reaches deep into our economy and society.

Not only does it endanger lives, but jobs and education. It separates friends and family.

This government has never been blind to the difficult trade-offs and decisions coronavirus has forced upon on us.

If we had, we never would have deployed one of the most comprehensive and generous packages of support in the world.

But more than the measures themselves, it is the values behind them that I want to impress upon you.

Conservatives believe in the importance of community and belonging.

We believe in personal responsibility and pragmatism.

We believe in the nobility of work and free enterprise.

And we believe in the unbreakable bond of union that unites the four nations of our United Kingdom.

Our values are old and true and have withstood tests of strife, of terror, and even war.

They are timeless because they are a wisdom earned over generations.

And they are universal, because they are rooted in the fundamental belief that individual freedom enables both the greatest achievement and the gentlest kindness.

The economy

People looked at us last December and saw this Conservative party.

They saw a party whose values and priorities were aligned with those of the British people.

They saw a party prepared to act at a scale commensurate with the challenges our country faces and they were not wrong.

  • The SELF-EMPLOYED SUPPORT SCHEME
  • EAT OUT TO HELP OUT
  • Our PLAN FOR JOBS
  • The JOB SUPPORT SCHEME
  • A VAT cut for the tourism and hospitality sectors
  • The PAY AS YOU GROW SCHEME
  • A STAMP DUTY holiday
  • A £2 billion GREEN HOMES GRANT programme
  • The £2 billion KICKSTART SCHEME
  • Nearly 1million BUSINESS GRANTS
  • A 12-month BUSINESS RATES HOLIDAY
  • £35bn of BOUNCE BACK LOANS to over 1million small businesses
  • Over 60,000 CORONAVIRUS BUSINESS INTERRUPTION LOANS
  • The FUTURE FUND
  • TAX DEFERRALS
  • Support for our brilliant CHARITIES
  • Over £8 billion of extra funding to SUPPORT OUR MOST VULNERABLE
  • A SIX-MONTH MORTGAGE HOLIDAY
  • And yes, THE FURLOUGH SCHEME, a first of it’s kind intervention in UK political history, delivered at scale, devised in rapid time, that protected millions of British families at the most acute stage of this crisis.

I could go on… all these measures and more… delivered by a Conservative government as part of our plan to support jobs and livelihoods.

And whilst we would not have wished for this burden, it has been for many, for the first time in their lives, a moment in which government ceased to be distant and abstract, but became real, and felt, and something of which people could be proud. 

Action met words.

This Conservative government stood between the people and the danger and we always will.

But we haven’t done it alone.

You, the people, have been with us.

Wherever I look, I see acts of decency and bravery.

Barbara and Richard Wilson in Cumbria who furloughed the staff from their butchers’ shop but topped up their wages, so they didn’t have any extra worries about bills.

Kevin Butler, who used the self-employed support scheme to help meet the cost of living whilst his partner worked so he could home school their daughter.

John, Norma and Richard King who run the Bull’s Head Inn in Shropshire, who did the right thing when we asked, made their pub Covid compliant, and re-opened using Eat Out to Help Out in August.

Thank you to all those business owners, large and small, who are making the right decisions for workers and customers.

We are now seeing our economy go through changes as a result of coronavirus that can’t be ignored.

“I couldn’t protect every job”

I have always said I couldn’t protect every job or every business. No chancellor could.

And even though I have said it, the pain of knowing it, only grows with each passing day.

So, I am committing myself to a single priority – to create, support and extend opportunity to as many people as I can.

Because even if this moment is more difficult than any you have ever faced, even if it feels like there is no hope, I am telling you that there is, and that the overwhelming might of the British state will be placed at your service.

We will not let talent wither, or waste, we will help all who want it, find new opportunity and develop new skills.

Through more apprenticeships, more training and a lifetime skills guarantee.

Our Kickstart Scheme will help hundreds of thousands of young people into good quality work.

And we will help small businesses adapt.

That’s why we have delivered Government backed loans, tax deferrals and tax cuts.

In a free market economy it is the entrepreneur, who is critical.

And we will make it easier for those with the ambition and appetite to take risks and be bold, to do what they do best and create jobs and growth.

Balancing the books

And we will protect the public finances. Over the medium term getting our borrowing and debt back under control.

We have a sacred responsibility to future generations to leave the public finances strong, and through careful management of our economy, this Conservative government will always balance the books.

If instead we argue there is no limit on what we can spend, that we can simply borrow our way out of any hole, what is the point in us?

I have never pretended there is some easy cost-free answer.

Hard choices are everywhere.

I won’t stop trying to find ways to support people and businesses.

I will always be pragmatic.

The Winter Economy Plan announced only two weeks ago is but the latest stage of our planned economic response.

I will keep listening, keep striving to be creative in response to the challenges our economy faces, and where I can, I will act.

I will not give up, no matter how difficult it is.

The British people and British businesses won’t give up.

I know this because of what I said at the beginning.

We share the same values.

The Conservative party and the country.

And these values are not devoid of meaning to people.

They are about protecting that which is meaningful to them.

Their family, their home, their job, their ability to choose for themselves what is best for them and those they love.

To create second chances, to see potential met, and to extend the awesome power of opportunity to all who seek it.

To answer questions of character with action not rhetoric.

To put the people first, their hopes and their aspirations.

And above all, to be worthy of the great trust they have placed in us.”

Read more: Sunak urged to avoid tax rises by leading economists

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