Stronger, safer & greener! Boris sparks ‘extraordinary chapter’ as he hails Brexit freedom

Keir Starmer discusses questions to Boris Johnson in PMQs

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Polling showed the Tories are still way ahead in the polls at 44 points to 33 despite Labour attempts to use the costly revamp to dent the Prime Minister’s popularity. Mr Johnson said he has used the 18 months since the general election to pass 44 bills to make the country stronger, fairer, safer and greener. But the Prime Minister said there is more to do as Parliament broke up ahead of next month’s Queen’s Speech.

Mr Johnson said: “This Parliament has been witness to an extraordinary chapter in the UK’s history, spanning the new freedoms we’ve gained as a sovereign nation outside the EU to the impacts of a global pandemic.

“The changes we’ve delivered have allowed us to take rapid action to protect our country from coronavirus and will make our country stronger, fairer, safer and greener.

“But there is much more to do – and I will remain laser-focused on delivering the people’s priorities as we work to unite, level up and increase opportunity all across the UK.”

Mr Johnson said Brexit laws have given the country control over trade and borders again and allowed hundreds of powers to be returned to the devolved administrations.

He highlighted how the government has passed laws imposing tougher sentences for serious criminals, stronger protections for the victims of domestic abuse and committing to record funding for the NHS.

The pandemic has also led to new legislation to keep the nation safe and protect livelihoods, according to the Prime Minister.

The next steps in the government’s plans for reform will be set out at the State Opening of Parliament on May 11.

Mr Johnson insisted he is focused on the “stuff that really matters” as he continued to face questions about the revamp of the Downing Street flat he lives in with fiancee Carrie Symonds and their son Wilf.

The Prime Minister paid the £58,000 excess bill above a £30,000 taxpayer-funded annual maintenance allowance but has not explained if he was initially lent the money.

Mr Johnson said he will comply with an Electoral Commission investigation into the row but insisted there was nothing to worry about.

“We will comply with whatever they want and I don’t think there is anything to see here, or to worry about,” he said.

“But what we are doing is focusing on the stuff that really matters.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has seized on the row to repeatedly slam Mr Johnson for Tory sleaze.

He said: “I think this is getting a bit farcical. I think the Prime Minister could actually deal with this very, very quickly.

“All he’s got to do is answer a very simple question; which is who paid, initially, for the redecoration of your flat?

“Now, I’m thinking of people watching this, I think most people would say, ‘If I had my flat redecorated, I’d be able to answer that question’.

“So, the Prime Minister could actually end this now, tell us who paid for it in the first place, answer the question, it would take him about one minute and then he can get back on with the day job.”

But the attack campaign appears to have had little impact on voters.

Polling carried out on Tuesday and Wednesday by YouGov found the Conservative Party remains on 44 percent but Labour dropped a point to 33 percent.

The upmarket overhaul of his No 11 residence was supposedly triggered by Ms Symonds’ desire to get rid of the “John Lewis furniture nightmare” in the flat.

Critics used the unattributed claim made in Tatler to brand Mr Johnson and his partner snobs.

Nadhim Zahawi shuts down host over Boris Johnson

Sir Keir posed for photographs in the wallpaper section of the John Lewis store in Manchester’s Trafford Centre in a publicity stunt.

But Mr Johnson insisted he is a big fan of the high street giant.

“The one thing I object to in this whole farrago of nonsense is I love John Lewis,” he said.

“But what I will say is what people want this Government to do is focus on their priorities.”

Newly appointed ministerial standards adviser Lord Geidt is carrying out his own review into whether any donations were properly declared.

Labour has criticised the probe because the adviser reports to the Prime Minister, claiming it means he “effectively marks his own homework”.

But vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi described Lord Geidt, a former Private Secretary to The Queen, as a “really creditable individual”.

He added: “All ministers serve with the confidence of the Prime Minister – I think that’s right, that is the right system to have.

“So it is only right that the adviser on ministerial conduct has to be able to report to the Prime Minister.”

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Mr Zahawi added: “The important one is who paid for this, because did the taxpayer pay for this? No, they didn’t – Boris Johnson paid for it.”

Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak spent Thursday morning at King Solomon Academy, in Marylebone, London, talking to pupils about how to help them catch up after a year of interrupted schooling.

The Prime Minister said: “There’s no doubt that the pandemic has had an effect – young minds are incredibly resilient, but they need help.

“So we have put £1.7 billion already into supporting educational bounce back, supporting holiday camps, supporting all sorts of things.

“A lot more tutoring, 170,000 pupils have had extra tutoring, but we need to do more.

“I would say, when I look at the impact of this pandemic, on our country, the impact on healthcare, delayed operations, delayed medical procedures, is huge, obviously – but education is the number one priority.”

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