London: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Monday defended his actions over the sacking of a Cabinet minister after he was found in breach of the ministerial code over his tax affairs, pledging to restore integrity into politics.
The British Indian leader has faced Opposition criticism over not taking the action to sack Conservative Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi, a minister without portfolio in his Cabinet, sooner after it emerged he had paid a penalty to the country’s tax department.
During the launch of his government’s new emergency care plan for the National Health Service (NHS), Sunak insisted he had acted decisively by asking the independent ethics adviser to investigate the issue.
“What I have done is follow a process, which is the right process,” he said during a tour of County Durham in north east England.
“Integrity is really important to me – all of you guys want to see that government is run properly, that it is run with integrity and there’s accountability when people don’t behave in the way that they should or if something doesn’t go right, and that’s what we’ve done,” he said.
He also pledged to “take whatever steps are necessary to restore the integrity back into politics”.
“The things that happened before I was prime minister, I can’t do anything about. What I think you can hold me to account for is how I deal with the things that arise on my watch,” he added.
It came as the UK government published a new Urgent and Emergency Care Plan as part one of Sunak’s stated priorities to reform the way the NHS provides services to adapt to changing needs, including by expanding care outside of hospitals.
“The NHS has faced unprecedented pressure this winter – with the ‘twindemic’ of flu and COVID becoming a reality, alongside surging demand for all services, from GP appointments to A&E [accident & emergency] attendances and ambulance call outs,” said NHS Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard.
“Boosting care in the community and treating more people at home is key to recovery – it is better for patients and their families, as well as easing pressure on NHS services,” she said.
As part of the new plan, urgent community response teams will be scaled up to increase the number of referrals and patients seen by a range of health and social care professionals within two hours, with services running 12 hours a day.
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