Liz Truss 'very committed' to new QEH hospital if she becomes PM
- Credit: PA
Liz Truss, the MP for South West Norfolk, has committed to building a new Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King's Lynn if she becomes prime minister.
The 42-year-old hospital building, which lies just outside Ms Truss's constituency, is in a dire state of repair, with thousands of support beams in place to prevent the ceiling from collapsing in on patients.
Staff at the hospital have been waiting months to find out whether it will be selected by the government to be rebuilt, but Ms Truss - who is running against former chancellor Rishi Sunak to be the country’s next PM - gave her assurance that she was on the case, as she spoke in Norfolk on Friday afternoon.
The foreign secretary said: “I’m very committed to sorting that out - and also building the 40 hospitals that Boris Johnson has committed to.
“I’ve seen the fact for myself that it [the QEH] is being held up by stilts, which shouldn’t be happening and we need to urgently sort it out.
“In my current role, I’ve written to the health secretary, but I hope in my future role, I’ll be able to make sure that project and others happen across the country.”
She added that she was also “very keen” to shorten ambulance waiting times across the county.
“People are waiting too long for an ambulance, it’s often in a life and death situation," continued the current bookies' favourite to be the next prime minister.
“That is not acceptable and I will make sure, if selected as PM, I appoint a health secretary that sorts that out.”
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Asked how her becoming PM would benefit people in Norfolk specifically, the current foreign secretary said: "I think what I bring with me in all the jobs I've done in government, is an understanding of what people in Norfolk think.
"People here are very down to earth, they have lots of common sense, and they like to get things done.
"It's a very practical approach, and that's what I want to channel in government - because we do face huge challenges as a country, but I absolutely believe that we're up to dealing with those challenges.
"Whether it's about food security, which is of course very important and our farmers do a fantastic job here in Norfolk, or whether it's about getting the infrastructure built.
"It's been a frustration of mine, both as a backbench MP and as a frontbencher, that we're still not fast enough at building infrastructure.
"I really want to speed that up because I know things like the mobile phone signal here, the roads, the Ely North [rail] junction - these things haven't happened fast enough and we need to get on with it.”
"We promised in 2019 to level up the country - a core part of that is improving the infrastructure and I know that's an absolute priority for people in Norfolk.”
Asked specifically how she will ensure East Anglia is not left behind while levelling up efforts are focused on the north and midlands, she said: "I'm very focused on making sure that rural communities are fully included in all of the government's policies.
“That's cutting down red tape on farmers and food producers, so they can get on with doing what they do best.
"Supporting small businesses - I want to review the tax system, particularly business rates, because I want small businesses to be able to do well - and addressing these longstanding infrastructure issues.”
Ms Truss had been meeting with Conservative members from across the county at the headquarters of Breckland Council in Dereham. She - and her rival Mr Sunak - are travelling around the country trying to win as many members' votes as possible.
Ms Truss was also asked about her reported pledge to take the UK out of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), if the Strasbourg court stops the UK from deporting asylum-seekers to Rwanda on human rights grounds.
The ECHR’s creation, following the atrocities of the Second World War, was championed by Winston Churchill - and the only country to have ever withdrawn from it is Russia, which did so in March 2022 after it illegally invaded Ukraine.
Asked whether Russia’s exit was really an example the UK should follow, Ms Truss said: "My first priority is making sure that we deliver on the Rwanda policy - I want to expand it to other countries as well.
“What I will do is legislate, through the British Bill of Rights, to make sure that the UK is sovereign over our own decisions.
“What we can’t be in the situation of, is being overruled by the ECHR on those sovereign decisions.
“It’s my priority to sort out illegal immigration and the appalling people trafficking that’s taking place.
“What I’ve said is, if it came to it - I don’t think it will come to it - but if it came to it, we have to be prepared to do whatever it takes.”
The result of the Conservative leadership race is expected on September 5.
The waiting game
Local Democracy Reporter Noah Vickers reflects on meeting the country’s possible next prime minister, Liz Truss.
The interview with Ms Truss took place at Breckland Council’s headquarters in Dereham, where the Tory leadership frontrunner had been meeting with members of her party to encourage them to vote for her.
Men in black suits kept watch in the car park - and journalists were not allowed to watch the discussions between Ms Truss and the membership.
A quiet stillness hung in the July air, and the anticipation built as her aides gave assurances that the foreign secretary would be coming out “any minute now”.
When she did emerge, accompanied by an entourage of aides and security, she was full of smiles and warmth - displaying an ease and confidence which has been increasingly prominent in the televised debates between her and rival Rishi Sunak.
She joked about whether she would be able to stand the tension of a penalty shoot-out ahead of England women facing Germany in the final of the Euros on Sunday - and said she was looking forward to going out for a pizza with her husband in the evening to celebrate their 22nd wedding anniversary.