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Top Stories: Barclay Admits Government Is Not Building 40 New Hospitals, Price Caps on Food

Health secretary Steve Barclay said the government may miss its 2030 target on hospital building. (BBC/Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg)

3 min read

The health secretary has admitted the government is not building 40 brand new hospitals, but insisted this does not break a key Conservative manifesto pledge.

Appearing on the BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, health secretary Steve Barclay admitted that the government's pledge to build "40 new hospitals" actually means refurbishments and building new wings in many cases. 

"Some of the schemes include, for example, a hospital being gutted and fully refurbished – look at Charing Cross, for example," said Barclay.

He added: "If it's a new wing, a new facility – a women and children's hospital, for example – as part of a wider campus, that is something as a patient you go in.

"What matters to you as a patient is whether the facilities are state of the art, whether they're new."

Elsewhere, Barclay also admitted that some of the government's plans for hospitals will take "slightly longer" than the 2030 target pledged in their manifesto. 

"But we're going to get on with them, they're still part of the program - they're still going to be funded," said Barclay. 

Price caps on food items

The government is asking supermarkets to introduce price caps on essential items like bread and milk, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

It comes after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) this week reported the price of food and non-alcoholic drinks rose to its second-highest rate in 45 years in the year to April 2023.

“The government is working constructively with supermarkets as to how we address the very real concerns around food inflation and the cost of living - and doing so in a way that is also very mindful to the impact on suppliers,” the health secretary told Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

The paper reports the price cap would be an optional arrangement.

Earlier this month, the environment, food, and rural affairs committee announced an inquiry into food pricing as prices in supermarkets remain at record-breaking levels despite the cost in essential ingredients like wheat decreasing. 

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt also met with food manufacturers on Tuesday and the Competition and Markets Authority to discuss stubbornly high prices. 

Boris Johnson

Government considers legal action against COVID-19 inquiry

According to The Observer, the government is considering legal action against the COVID-19 inquiry in a row over unredacted versions of former prime minister Boris Johnson's messages during the pandemic.

The paper reports the government is so far refusing to hand the unredacted messages over - prompting warnings from former court of appeal judge and chair of the inquiry, Heather Hallett, that a failure to do so could be a criminal offence accompanied with imprisonment or a fine.

The Observer reports the Cabinet Office is arguing it does not need to hand the unredacted messages to the inquiry because they are "unambiguously irrelevant".

Other claims by the Cabinet Office include handing over the messages could set a dangerous precedent and breach data protection laws. 

A Cabinet Office spokesperson told the paper: “We are fully committed to our obligations to the COVID-19 inquiry.

"As such, extensive time and effort has gone into assisting the inquiry over the last 11 months.

"We will continue to provide all relevant material, in line with the law, ahead of proceedings getting underway.”

Boris Johnson's visitors at Chequers during lockdown named

BBC chairman Richard Sharp, Boris Johnson's cousin Sam Blyth, and Tory peer Lord Brownlow are among a dozen visitor entries to Chequers during COVID-19 restrictions, according to The Sunday Times

The entries were given to the Cabinet Office this month by the lawyers representing Johnson in the investigation into whether he knowingly or recklessly misled Parliament. The entries were then referred to the Metropolitan Police and Thames Valley Police.

However, Johnson has denied any rules were broken - with his spokesman telling the paper last night: "All events referred to the police were entirely lawful. 

"This is based on advice from lawyers."

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