Lies, Falsehoods and Misrepresentations from Boris Johnson to Rishi Sunak

‎”Today, I reconfirm to the House our commitment for 40 new hospitals to be built by 2030″

Steve Barclay, Health Secretary, House of Commons

Facts

In a statement to the House of Commons, Health Secretary Steve Barclay repeated the Conservative manifesto promise that 40 new hospitals will be built by the year 2030. 

He was repeating a pledge uttered countless times by Boris Johnson and regularly exposed as deceitful on this website and elsewhere.

This often-repeated 40 hospitals pledge  (or sometimes 48 – see here and here) was part of the Conservative’s 2019 election manifesto under Boris Johnson. 

Boris Johnson’s pledge to build 40 new hospitals has been well and truly exploded as a ploy to bamboozle the electorate (see here, here, here and here). 

Barclay was reframing the Conservative definition of “new hospital” in order to make his nonsensical assertion. This became clear when Barclay said that the “40 new hospitals” included “a range of things”, including new wings and refurbishments. 

He insisted this did not break the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto promise. However nowhere in that manifesto is even a hint that the list of “new” hospitals promised by the Conservative government included new wings and refurbishments. 

In 2021, the government reinvented the definition of “new hospital” by ordering NHS Trusts to describe a “major new clinical building on an existing site or a new wing of an existing hospital” and a “major refurbishment and alteration of all but the building frame or main structure” as a “new hospital”.

For further analysis of the government’s definition of “new hospital” see Full Fact. 

Verdict

Health Secretary Steve Barclay was misleading the House of Commons in two different ways. First of all, he was not proposing what any reasonable person would understand to be “40 new hospitals.”  In reality, his list of new hospitals contains “a range of things”, including new wings and refurbishments. In ordinary speech, that is not what is meant by “new hospital”. 

Mr Barclay was also misleading the House of Commons about the contents of the 2019 Conservative Manifesto. This document did promise to build a list of “40 new hospitals”. Nowhere, however, did it say that the Conservative Party had redefined the term “new hospital” to include new wings, refurbishments etc.

Had Mr Barclay been honest with MPs, he would have been told that he was adjusting and very substantially weakening the Conservative manifesto commitment about new hospitals. By saying that he was “reconfirming” that commitment, he was misleading the House of Commons. 

According to the Ministerial Code,  “It is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity.  Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignation to the Prime Minister.” Steve Barclay was misleading parliament in defiance of the Ministerial Code. 

We gave the Department of Health and Social Care the opportunity to respond to the above commentary. The substantial content of their reply was as follows:

“Our latest lines on the NHP can be found here: https://healthmedia.blog.gov.uk/2023/05/25/new-hospital-programme-media-fact-sheet/

Within the DHSC document can be found the following relevant statements: “The government is on track to deliver the manifesto commitment to build 40 new hospitals in England by 2030.”

“We are on track to deliver the manifesto commitment to build 40 new hospitals in England by 2030.”

“The definition of a new hospital is: a major new clinical building on an existing site or a new wing of an existing hospital, or a major refurbishment and alteration of all but the building frame or main structure.”

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