The Government that I have had the privilege to lead has focused relentlessly on delivery. This statement updates the House on what we have achieved since I was invited by Her Majesty The Queen to form a government in July 2019, and puts on record why the millions of people who voted Conservative in 2019, many for the first time, were right to place their trust in me and in this Conservative Government.
First, after the country had endured three years of indecision and uncertainty with a deadlocked Parliament and a paralysed government, we got Brexit done. We delivered on the decision the people of the United Kingdom made in 2016, and took our country out of the European Union, negotiating a new Trade and Cooperation Agreement that preserves zero tariff, zero quota trade. Since our exit, we have been seizing the opportunities that come with this new freedom. We have signed three major new trade deals with Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, supporting food, drink and manufacturing exports as well as digital trade, and taking our total number of FTAs to over 70, with negotiations underway on many more. We have selected eight locations for freeports, with two already operational and the others coming on stream later this year. We have passed the Agriculture Act and the Fisheries Act, reforming what were wasteful and bureaucratic European schemes to the benefit of our farming and fishing communities and the environment. We have put in place a points-based immigration system that gives the people of this country control over our own borders. It is because we have this control that we have been able to react swiftly and generously to events in Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Ukraine, and strike the Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda in response to the shared international challenge of illegal migration, breaking the business model of people smuggling gangs.
Second, thanks to the fortitude and spirit of the British public, we guided the country through its greatest challenge since the Second World War. A pandemic is the kind of crisis that no administration wants to face, but which it is the Government’s solemn duty to tackle. We supported the NHS and the incredible doctors, nurses and carers who acted so valiantly to treat and care for the ill, and to whom I owe my own life. We built a huge testing regime, distributing more than two billion lateral flow tests across the UK, and at the peak delivering more than seven million tests to households every 24 hours. We invested in antivirals, adding more powerful new drugs to our armoury than any of our neighbours. In the face of predictions of 12 per cent unemployment, we deployed the furlough scheme, which supported the jobs of 11.7 million people through lockdown. Most importantly, we bet early and bet big on vaccines before success was guaranteed, becoming the first country in the world to administer one outside of clinical trials and the fastest in Europe to roll them out at scale – over 70 per cent of the entire UK population aged 12 or above received at least one dose within the first six months, and the total number of jabs now stands at over 150 million. Thanks to these efforts, we were able to emerge from lockdown early and set out our plan for living with COVID, getting our lives back on track.
Third, when I became Prime Minister I stood on the steps of Downing Street and said it was my job to level up the country, because while potential is evenly distributed throughout the population, opportunity is not. This meant bringing down crime, strengthening our health system, sorting out social care and improving our schools – and the Government acted on every front.
Our streets are safer. We have recruited more than 13,500 additional police officers, over halfway to delivering our pledge to put an extra 20,000 officers on the streets by 2023. We have taken over 50,000 knives and offensive weapons off the streets, and brought knife crime and thefts down last year compared to 2019. We have backed the police with the support they need, providing the largest funding boost in a decade, and equipping them with new powers to tackle disruptive protests and use stop and search. We have rolled up over 1,500 county lines, going for the gangs that peddled them and protecting the young people exploited by them. We have changed the law to make sure serious violent and sexual criminals spend more time behind bars.
Our NHS is on a surer footing. We have more doctors and around 30,000 more nurses than in March 2019, well over halfway to meeting our commitment of 50,000 more nurses by 2024. We have recruited another 18,000 primary care staff, such as physiotherapists and pharmacists, putting us on track to reach 26,000 by 2024. We have launched the biggest catchup programme in the NHS’s history to tackle the legacy of the pandemic, aiming to deliver around 30 per cent more elective activity by 2024-25 than before the pandemic hit, underpinned by a £39 billion investment. We have opened almost 100 Community Diagnostic Centres, helping millions of patients to access earlier diagnostic tests closer to home. We have begun the biggest hospital-building programme for a generation. We have published England’s first women’s health strategy to improve the health and well-being of women and girls, and widened access to life saving drugs.
Our broken social care system is finally being fixed. We have ended the cruel lottery of social care costs with a plan that means no one will pay more than £86,000 over their lifetime, when previously many had to pay six figure sums. We have lifted the previous limit for financial support by more than 400 per cent, so that anyone with assets of under £100,000 will be eligible for help, and those with under £20,000 will pay nothing at all. We have designed a way to make the overall system fairer, so that those who fund themselves do not pay more than state-funded individuals for the equivalent standard of care. We have committed to providing our brilliant social care workforce with new training and qualification opportunities, so that they can progress and improve while providing an even greater standard of care.
Our schools are better. We have supported children to recover from the impact of the pandemic with over two million tutoring courses and a programme to reach six million by 2024. We have supported teachers too, with over 80,000 benefitting from additional training and support, while bringing starting salaries up to £30,000, attracting more bright and able graduates to inspire the next generation. We have injected the biggest funding boost in a decade, taking core funding to £56.8 billion by 2024-25. We have driven up school standards, with 87 per cent of schools now rated Good or Outstanding, up from 68 per cent in 2010. We have set an ambition for 90 per cent of children to leave primary school at the expected standard in reading, writing and maths by 2030.
Fourth, in spite of the challenges posed by COVID and the subsequent headwinds in the global economy, we secured the fastest economic growth in the G7 last year. We have helped people into jobs by partnering with employers, including 500,000 since January this year through the Way to Work programme, and we have the lowest unemployment rate in almost 50 years. We have focused on getting young people into work, an area where versus other OECD countries we know we can do better, with 163,000 supported by the Kickstart Scheme to start their career and gain vital work experience. We have redressed Britain's historic underinvestment in infrastructure, developing a five-year, £600 billion pipeline of infrastructure projects to improve connectivity and drive economic growth, including a £96 billion investment through the Integrated Rail Plan – building three new high-speed lines in Northern Powerhouse Rail, HS2 East and HS2 West, and reopening lines to industrial and country towns cut off under Beeching. We have committed £5 billion to boost buses and cycling and a further £5.7 billion to level up local transport systems in the mayoral combined authority areas. We have accelerated the deployment of wind, new nuclear, solar and hydrogen power generation, with the Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution and our broader net zero agenda already yielding £22 billion in private sector investment and 68,000 clean jobs – and an ambition to unlock £100 billion of investment and 480,000 such jobs by the end of the decade. We have continued to support the production of domestic oil and gas in the nearer term, which must underpin our transition to cleaner and cheaper power, working to retain the skills and industry in Aberdeen and elsewhere by putting nearly £2 billion into technologies such as carbon capture, usage and storage. We have raised the proportion of properties able to access the fastest gigabit-capable broadband from nine per cent when my administration took office to 68 per cent now. We have set an ambitious 2030 date for ending sales of new petrol and diesel cars, with over half of all new cars sold now electric or hybrid, and we have bolstered our strategic road network through a £27.4 billion Road Investment Strategy that includes building the first new trans-Pennine dual carriageway since 1971.
We have awarded 101 Towns Deals across the country to address high levels of deprivation and open up new opportunities by fostering economic regeneration, stimulating investment and delivering vital infrastructure. We have made it easier to own a home, with over 400,000 first time buyers last year marking the highest number since 2006, and housebuilding rebounding strongly after the challenges posed by the start of the pandemic. We have set out plans for renters reform that will provide renting families more security at the same time as supporting landlords. We have cemented the UK’s status as a science superpower, recognising that the ability to advance and exploit science and technology will be an increasingly important competitive edge over the coming decade, growing research and development spending by 33 per cent over this Parliament, the fastest ever rate. We have attracted more venture capital investment in tech startups this year than any country bar the US, putting us ahead of China, Japan and Germany. We are levelling up skills, because stronger skills lead to better, higher paid jobs – with over 20,000 people already benefiting from Skills Bootcamps, and 175 colleges due to offer T-Levels from this September. We have announced a Lifelong Loan Entitlement so that from 2025 everyone can access funding to support up to four years of post-18 study, be that modular or full time – helping people gain skills at any stage of their life. We have increased the National Living Wage by the largest ever cash amount, and reduced the Universal Credit taper rate to make sure work pays.
Fifth, embracing the freedom we now have to chart our own course, we led on the international stage. We used our G7 Presidency to launch the $600 billion Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment – closing the infrastructure gap in developing countries while enhancing our economic and national security – and to agree a minimum corporate tax rate to crack down on avoidance. We have driven action on climate change, marshalling nearly 200 countries at COP26 to treble global net zero agreements so that they now cover 90 per cent of the world economy, committing to reach net zero in the UK by 2050, and driving down emissions at the fastest rate in the G7. We have stepped up where our help was needed, be it in evacuating over 15,000 people from Afghanistan in just 16 days through Operation Pitting, offering a route to the UK for holders of British National (Overseas) passports and their family members in Hong Kong, standing up the Homes for Ukraine scheme, or providing £548 million to COVAX to get 1.3 billion vaccine doses into 87 developing countries.
Across these five fronts – Brexit, COVID, public services, the economy, and the world stage – this Government has delivered. As we prepare for a change in administration, there are two further fronts on which we are already taking decisive action, and on which the commitment of the next Conservative Prime Minister will not waver.
At home, we are standing by the side of the British public as we cope with pressures on the cost of living – just as we did in the darkest hours of the COVID crisis. We have set out a £37 billion package which will see the most vulnerable eight million households get support worth £1,200. Qualifying low income households will get £650, with the first half being paid into bank accounts this month, and the remainder following in the autumn. Every household in the country will get £400 towards their energy costs. Most will get a £150 council tax rebate. Pensioners in receipt of winter fuel payments will get a separate payment of £300, and disabled people a further £150. Both I, and my successor, will continue to focus support on those who need it the most.
Abroad, we are standing up for Ukraine – as we always have when our fundamental values are threatened. We have brought the G7 and NATO together in support of the Ukrainian people so that the free West speaks with one voice and brings its collective might to bear. We have provided significant amounts of lethal aid, including 2,000 anti-tank missiles in January before the invasion started. We have committed military, humanitarian and economic assistance totalling nearly £4 billion, more than any other country apart from the US. We have donated over 11 million medical items, 856 mobile generators and 20 NHS ambulances, and sent the largest fire deployment to ever leave the UK. We have acted decisively with our allies to sanction over 1,000 individuals and 100 entities, freeze the assets of banks, and isolate Russia from international trade. We have introduced the fastest and largest visa scheme in our history to welcome Ukrainians who wish to find safety elsewhere, with over 95,000 arriving in the UK to date. We have stepped up our NATO commitments to strengthen the alliance, more than doubling our presence in Estonia, providing the SkySabre air defence system to Poland, and delivering enhanced air policing missions. For as long as it takes, the UK will continue to back Ukraine’s fight for freedom.
Finally, in everything this Government has done, we have striven to deliver for the whole of our United Kingdom – for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. From the vaccination programme, where we were able to ensure everyone across our islands could benefit from swift access to jabs, to the furlough scheme, which relied on the financial firepower of the UK Treasury, to our Levelling Up Fund, supporting town centre and high street regeneration, local transport projects, and cultural and heritage assets across the UK, the benefits of our great union have never been more evident.
I am proud of our record in office since 2019. I remain determined that we continue to deliver in our final weeks. And I know that the Conservative Government that follows after us will do what its predecessors have always done and meet the challenges of the day by serving the British people.