Boris Johnson – 2022 Speech in the No Confidence in the Government Motion

The speech made by Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 18 July 2022.

I beg to move,

That this House has confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.

I have no idea why the Leader of the Opposition has insisted that we must have a confidence motion today, when we could be sparing people from online harms—[Interruption.] That’s what he wanted. We could be fixing the defects in the Northern Ireland protocol, ending pointless barriers to trade in our country—[Interruption.]

Mr Speaker

Order. It might be helpful to say that it is the Government who put down the motion.

The Prime Minister

The Leader of the Opposition wants one, Mr Speaker, and since Labour Members want one and it is the right hon. and learned Gentleman’s constitutional prerogative, we will comply and we will win.

Let me tell the Leader of the Opposition why I believe that this is one of the most dynamic Governments of modern times, not just overcoming adversity on a scale we have not seen for centuries, but delivering throughout adversity. If he wants evidence of the temper and mettle of this Government, I remind him of how we began, when Parliament was deadlocked and he was shadow Brexit Secretary. Labour were the first Opposition in history to be absolutely petrified of calling a general election, and when they finally capitulated and agreed to submit to the verdict of the people, we sent the great blue Tory ferret so far up their left trouser leg that they could not move. We won the biggest Conservative victory since 1987 and the biggest share of the vote since 1979. We won seats they never dreamed of losing, from Wrexham to Workington, and from Bishop Auckland to Barrow. We turned Redcar bluecar, we saw 54 seats go straight from Labour to Tory, and we won by 80 seats. Then we worked flat out to repay that trust. With iron determination we saw off Brenda Hale and we got Brexit done. And although the rejoiners and the revengers were left plotting and planning and biding their time—I will have more to say about the events of the last few weeks and months in due course—we delivered on every single one of our promises.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister

I will not give way; I am going to make some progress.

We took back control of our money, we took back control of our borders and we installed a points-based system for immigration. We took back control of our laws. We on this side of the House took back the sovereign right of the British people to determine their own laws and their own future in Parliament, and for that I say to colleagues on the Government Benches: your place in history is secure. I say to the Leader of the Opposition: it will never be forgotten that 48 times he tried to overturn the will of the people—48 times he tried to strike down the biggest expression of popular will. It will be remembered in the history of this country. Be in no doubt that if he were ever to come to power with his hopeless coalition of Liberal Democrats and Scottish nationalists, he would try to do so again, at the drop of a hat.

It was only a month or so later that the Government were forced to show their resolve again, when we began to lose thousands of lives in the worst pandemic for a century; a global pandemic whose origins we did not fully understand and were nothing to do with the British people—if anything, they were the result of distant misbehaviour involving bats or pangolins—and whose spread was appallingly difficult to manage. Through wave after wave, this Government never gave up, and thanks to the courage and indomitable resilience of the British people, we protected our NHS and saved thousands of lives.

We were finally rescued by the genius of British scientists, by a vaccine that was licensed faster than any vaccine in the world and by a roll-out that was faster than that of any comparable country—faster, of course, than we would have achieved if we had listened to the Leader of the Opposition. It was so fast that the EU Commission actually tried to expropriate 5 million doses of Astra to try to slow us down, it can be told —[Interruption.] Yes, “shame” is right. And still they failed. In so far as the Opposition came up with any ideas at all, they quaveringly called for more lockdowns. We trusted to British science and the vaccine roll-out. They vacillated, we vaccinated, and we vaccinated so fast that we came out of lockdown quicker than any other European country. When I look at that achievement, Mr Speaker, I tell you I have confidence in this Government and in what they can do.

As a direct result of the actions of the Government, we had the fastest growth in the G7 last year, which is why we are able now to help people across the country with the latest challenge: the global inflation in energy prices triggered partly by post-covid blockages but made far worse by Putin’s vile war in Ukraine. It is because we have sensibly managed the economy that we have the fiscal firepower to give £1,200 to the 8 million most vulnerable households and £400 to help every household with the cost of energy. We can do that because our economic fundamentals are strong, with British companies hiring talent up and down the country, with unemployment at or near a 50-year low, with 620,000 more people in payroll employment than there were before the pandemic began and youth unemployment at or near a 45-year low, and with people coming off benefits and getting into work, including 500,000 just in the six months to June.

That is the fundamental difference between this Government and the Opposition: we believe that the best answer to poverty is not benefits—that is what they think—but the security, happiness and dignity that goes with a job. I am proud of what we have done throughout the last three years to champion working people: lifting the living wage, cutting tax for those on universal credit, and just in the last couple of weeks, the biggest tax cut in 10 years for the vast majority of people on lower incomes who pay national insurance contributions.

I will give you a fact, Mr Speaker. That is why today, under this Government, the poorer households in this country get more of their income from their earnings, and under Labour they got more of their income from benefits. That is the reality of the difference between them and us. There has never been a Labour Government that left office with unemployment lower than when it came in. That is why I have confidence in Her Majesty’s Government.

Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con)

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. I personally think that our party is making the same mistake the Labour party made when it knifed Tony Blair. Is my right hon. Friend aware that the excess death rates in Europe show that, thanks to his early intervention with the vaccine, fewer people died in the United Kingdom than in the majority of other European countries? And thanks to his intervention, Kyiv is still a part of Ukraine and not a part of Russia.

The Prime Minister

I thank my hon. Friend very much. He is absolutely right in what he says about the record of the NHS and the record of this country in beating back covid. What a pity it was that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, came so many times to this place and said that we had the worst record in Europe. He has never taken it back, Mr Speaker. Perhaps he will do so in the course of the debate to come.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister

I will give way again in a moment.

In spite of the pandemic, we did not for a moment lose our focus on the huge manifesto commitments we made in 2019, beginning with making our streets safer. With the help of now 13,576 more police—we will hit 20,000 more by 2024—we have rounded up those county lines drugs gangs, 1,500 of them so far, and we will continue. We have taken thousands of knives off the streets of our country using stop and search. I know that people on the Labour Benches oppose stop and search, but I think it is the kindest and most loving thing you can do, when someone is going equipped with a bladed weapon, to take that knife off him. It was by tough policing, giving the police the powers they deserve and putting more out on the street, that we helped to get neighbourhood crime down by 31%.

As we promised, we invested massively in our amazing NHS. We got nurses into hospitals—I think another 10,000 this year on last year—and we are on track to recruit 50,000. We have record numbers of people working now in our NHS tackling the covid backlogs. At the same time, we are getting on with our long-term programme of the improvement of our national health service. The Opposition constantly say that we are not going to build 40 new hospitals. Well, I can tell the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer) that we are. They will be done by 2030 and if he is still around in 2024 he will see measurable improvement.

I will tell you something else, Mr Speaker. Seventy-five years after the foundation of the NHS, we have been the first Government to have the nerve and a plan to fix the gulf between the NHS and social care, ending the cruel lottery that brings destitution on families with a member suffering from dementia. Governments promised it for decades; we did it. We are raising the funding to do it, which the Opposition oppose.

Of course, we have been investing massively in our schools and young people, introducing hundreds of thousands of kids—kids who have potential, kids who are in danger of being left behind—to the kind of tutoring that is currently only available to those whose parents can pay for it.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister

I am going to give way to my former opponent, the right hon. Member for Islington North (Jeremy Corbyn).

Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North) (Ind)

I am grateful to the Prime Minister for taking a break from his fantasy tour of this country. Could he take one moment to explain why 14 million people in this country are living in poverty, why there are more food banks than there are branches of McDonald’s, why there is a mental health crisis, why big pharma has made so much out of owning the patents of the vaccines, and why his Government are presiding over the enriching of the richest, the impoverishment of the poorest, and the greatest job insecurity in industry after industry? He has created poverty, inequality and insecurity. That is his legacy.

The Prime Minister

I am thrilled to be debating again with the right hon. Gentleman. Since our last encounters, I am proud to tell him that we have got unemployment down to record lows. I know that he would rather have people on benefits, but I do not think that is the way forward. He talks about 14 million people, but let me tell him that 14 million voted for this Conservative Government, and this Conservative Government are undefeated at the polls—never let that be forgotten. At the same time—

Ed Davey (Kingston and Surbiton) (LD) rose—

The Prime Minister

Just a moment. At the same time, we have been investing massively in schools, making our streets and our communities safer, making our population healthier and ensuring that our kids are literate and numerate at the age of 11—our goal is to get up to 90% by 11, rather than the current 65%.

We have been driven throughout these last three years by a very simple vision: we Conservatives believe that there is genius and talent everywhere and energy and imagination distributed in every corner of this country, but we do not think that is the same for opportunity. Our immense programme of levelling up is driven by the simple mathematical observation that if per capita GDP and productivity were as evenly distributed in the UK as they are in our major competitors, this would be by some way the most prosperous economy in Europe. Of course, it would also be the morally right thing to do. That is why we have kept going with the most colossal infrastructure programme ever seen, with three new high-speed rail lines—and, by the way, how many miles of electrified line did Labour build in its 13 years of office. Does anybody know? Virtually none. We are putting in hundreds of miles of road improvements and massive investments in buses and cycling.

Of course, we gave and are giving people skills, skills, skills. The lifetime skills guarantee means that the Government will support them to get an A-level equivalent skill when they are an adult. We are also giving them the technology to use those skills throughout the country. I am proud to say that gigabit broadband now sprouts through virtually every wainscot. We have gone from 7% to 69% coverage in this brief three years.

It is only by putting in the infrastructure—[Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) says that they do not have wi-fi in the north. This Government are putting in wi-fi across the whole—[Interruption.] How little she knows of the very area she purports to represent. It is only by putting in the infrastructure that we enable people to live where they want. I am proud that not only have we seen record numbers of homes being built, but last year, there were 400,000 first-time buyers. Unlike the Labour party, we believe in home ownership. We believe in getting people on the property ladder—[Interruption.] You can tell they do not like it, Mr Speaker. The better the infrastructure, the skills and the technology—there were 400,000 first-time buyers—the less intrusive the regulation in our country and the more the investment flows in.

We are seeing huge sums coming in now from the private sector. Every other week, there is another £1 billion unicorn, not just in London, Oxford or Cambridge, but across the whole country. We have more tech investment than France, Germany and Israel combined, and now, in the first quarter of this year, in attracting tech venture capital, we have actually overtaken the Chinese with £12.5 billion coming in.

This Government will continue to make the UK the place to come for the industries and businesses of the future. This year, Newquay will join Cape Kennedy and Baikonur as a functioning spaceport, I am proud to say. For the first time ever, under this Government, a British satellite will be launched into space from Britain. Next year, the spaceport in Shetland will roar into life, thanks to investments from Lockheed Martin and others, as local crofters—I mean humble crofters, almost as humble and local as the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford)—have withdrawn their opposition because they can see that it means jobs and growth for their area.

People in this House may not know it, but this Government have made an investment in low earth orbit satellites—hundreds of them. It was a risk, but it has paid off for the taxpayer. Hundreds and hundreds of them are now circling the earth, offering all sorts of opportunities, including the potential for internet connections for the people of sub-Saharan Africa.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Prime Minister

I will give way one last time.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff West) (Lab)

It is highly unconventional for the Prime Minister to put down a confidence motion in his own Government, although I suppose he is an unconventional person, since only an unconventional man would want the opportunity to speak at his own funeral. Is not the essential problem that despite the litany of what he thinks are his fantasy achievements, the bottom line is that this country is supposed to operate on the good chap theory of government, but it does not operate when there is a bad apple at the core?

The Prime Minister

Look, if the hon. Gentleman is saying that he is going to vote for confidence in this Government, I will certainly welcome his support. What I can tell him is that I believe that the achievements of this Government over the past three years have been very remarkable. As for his personal criticism of me, I am proud of what we have done and I am proud of the way I have been able to offer leadership in difficult times—let me put it that way.

The investment in the low earth orbit satellites has paid off. As I said, people in sub-Saharan Africa now have the chance to get an internet connection. It is a massive, massive success for global Britain. People around the world can now see the renewed ambition of this country, with the record £22 billion that we are investing to become a science superpower again and the new Advanced Research and Invention Agency. At the same time, the scientific solutions that we are providing are helping to solve the fundamental problems facing humanity.

On this sweltering day, let me remind the House that there are very few Governments in the world who could have organised a COP26 summit so far-reaching in its impacts. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Reading West (Alok Sharma) for what he did: committing 90% of the world to net zero by 2050, moving the world beyond the use of coal, moving from fossil-fuelled cars to electric vehicles, planting billions of trees around the world and launching the clean green initiative as we did at Carbis Bay, by which G7 Governments will now leverage the trillions of the private sector to help the developing world to use the clean, green technologies that offer economic as well as environmental salvation.

I think that people around the world can see more clearly than ever before that we have in this country—and, I think, in this House—a renewed willingness as global Britain to stand up for freedom and democracy. There could be no better proof of that than our campaign to help the Ukrainians. If it is true that I am more popular on the streets of Kyiv right now than I am in Kensington, that is because of the foresight and boldness of this Government in becoming the first European country to send the Ukrainians weapons—a decision that was made possible by the biggest investment in defence since the cold war. Although I think that that conflict will continue to be very hard, and our thoughts and prayers must continue to be with the people of Ukraine, I do believe that they must win and that they will win. Although that may, of course, be of massive strategic importance in the face of Putin’s adventurism and aggression, when the people of Ukraine have won it will also be a victory of right over wrong and of good over evil. I think that this Government saw that clearly, saw it whole and saw it faster than many other parts of the world. That is why I have confidence in this Government.

By the way, I have absolutely zero confidence in the Opposition. Eight of them—I never tire of saying this, and everyone must be saying it right up until the general election—eight of them, including the shadow Foreign Secretary, voted to discard this country’s independent nuclear weapon. I do not believe they would have done the same thing in standing up to Putin in a month of Sundays.

Last week I went up in one of our 148 Typhoon fighters, and I flew out over the North sea, over Doggerland. The drowned prairies are now being harvested again with tens of gigawatts of clean green energy. We will have 50 GW of offshore wind by 2050, and thanks to this Government’s activism I am proud to say that offshore wind is now cheaper than onshore wind. I looked down at that ghostly white forest of windmills in the sea, financed with ever growing sums from international investors, and I thought, “This is how we will fix our energy problems; this is how Europe should be ending its dependence on Putin’s gas.” I am proud of the way we have responded to the challenge, with a nuclear reactor every year rather than one every 10 years—or none at all, as was the ridiculous and catastrophic policy of the last Labour Government.

And then the wing commander interrupted me, and for a glorious period I was at the controls of the Typhoon. I did a loop the loop and an aileron roll and a barrel roll, and then—I am coming to the point, Mr Speaker—I handed back the controls. In a few weeks’ time, that is exactly what I will do with this great party of ours. After three dynamic and exhilarating years in the cockpit, we will find a new leader, and we will coalesce in loyalty around him or her, and the vast twin Rolls-Royce engines of our Tory message, our Conservative values, will roar on: strong public services on the left and a dynamic free-market enterprise economy on the right, each boosting the other and developing trillions of pounds of thrust. The reason we will keep winning is that we are the only party that understands the need for both.

Whatever happens in this contest, we will continue to fight for the lowest possible taxes and the lightest possible regulation. The Opposition’s problem is that they would try to fly on one engine, kowtowing to the union barons, endlessly inflicting more tax and more spending, endlessly giving in to the temptation to regulate us back into the orbit of the European Union, and flying round in circles.

Some people will say, as I leave office, that this is the end of Brexit. Listen to the deathly hush on the Opposition Benches! The Leader of the Opposition and the deep state will prevail in their plot to haul us back into alignment with the EU as a prelude to our eventual return. We on this side of the House will prove them wrong, won’t we? [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] Some people will say that this is the end of our support for Ukraine. [Interruption.] That is exactly the analysis. The champanskoye corks have allegedly been popping in the Kremlin, just as the Islington lefties are toasting each other with their favourite “Keir Royale”. But I have no doubt that whoever takes over in a few weeks’ time will make sure that we keep together the global coalition in support of our Ukrainian friends.

Some people will say—and I think it was the Leader of the Opposition himself who said it—that my departure means the eventual victory of the Labour party. I believe that those on this side of the House will prove the Leader of the Opposition totally wrong, and that in due course we will walk the right hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras into the capsule at Newquay that I mentioned earlier, and send him into orbit, where he belongs. And I tell the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber (Ian Blackford), who speaks for the Scottish nationalists, that it is time for him to take his protein pill and put his helmet on, because I hear it will not be long before his own party is taking him to Shetland and propelling him to the heavens.

This Government have fought some of the hardest yards in modern political history. We have had to take some of the bleakest decisions since the war, and I believe that we got the big calls right. At the end of three years, this country is visibly using its newfound independence to turbocharge our natural advantage as the best place in the world not just to live and to invest but to bring up a family. With a new and incontrovertible spirit of global leadership, I believe that we can look to the future with rock-solid confidence not just in what this Government have done but in what they will do and will continue to do. I commend this motion to the House.