‘This is a vital moment for East Anglia,’ prime minister Theresa May says on visit to East Anglia
- Credit: Nick Butcher
The prime minister used a trip to East Anglia to repeat her message that only she can offer the type of leadership that will ensure a successful Brexit.
But on a visit to the International Aviation Academy at Norwich Airport, Theresa May also said she recognised that Brexit was not the only issue people in the region were concerned about in the run-up to the June 8 polling day.
In a wide-ranging interview with this newspaper, Mrs May said if she was victorious her government would:
• Deliver a huge cut in immigration while addressing fears many rural businesses have over the threat to the migrant workforce;
• Not turn its back on large infrastructure projects including the dualling A47;
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• Strive to find a long-term solution to the social care crisis;
• Fight to achieve true equality for mental health services.
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And addressing claims she was ashamed to be a Conservative – after leaving the party's name off many campaigning posters and leaflets – she said: 'That's rubbish – no-one should be in any doubt that I and all the candidates are proud to be Conservatives.
'And the party's name will be on the ballot paper next to the candidates' names on June 8.'
At an event to launch the Tory candidates in the region, Mrs May said: 'My message to the whole of East Anglia is clear - we stand at a very important moment, we are going to be negotiating Brexit and we want to make a success of it and embrace the opportunities that are ahead of us outside the European Union.
'We need to build a strong economy for the future. That is what I and my team are all about and every vote for me and my local candidates is a vote to lock-in economic security.'
The visit came on the same day Mrs May suggested a vow to get immigration to the 'tens of thousands' – a figure she failed to achieve during her time in the Home Office – would be kept in the Tory manifesto.
But she was adamant the figure would be achieved without causing chaos to the many businesses in East Anglia that rely heavily upon a migrant workforce.
'We want to see immigration at sustainable levels and we do believe that is in the tens of thousands,' she said.
'I am well aware of the impact large-scale immigration has.
'But we recognise the need to maintain a strong economy and we have a system where the Migration Advisory Committee – an independent body – looks at shortage areas and also how we can bring those people into the UK when required.'
On social care – where Labour have promised to raise much-needed funds by taxing those on £80,000-a-year or more and the Liberal Democrats have proposed a 1p increase in income tax – the PM said she recognised the looming crisis and hinted the Conservative manifesto could contain a flagship policy.
'I do recognise the pressures on social care,' she said.
'This needs to be to be addressed in the short, medium and long-term.
'Short-term we have put more money in. Medium-term we need to make sure best practice is delivered across the system – currently it is patchy – and then longer-term, we need to find a sustainable solution, but you will have to wait for our manifesto.'
Picking up on the current campaigning on psychological issues by members of the Royal family and other high-profile individuals, Mrs May said her government would work to improve the mental health provision across the region.
'Parity of esteem has been introduced into the NHS – we want to make sure that is fully recognised,' she said.
'We have also said we want to overhaul the Mental Health Act, which has been around for some time now. But there are a number of issues we need to address and assuring parity of esteem is one of them.'
She added that a mental health provision for schools was on the agenda.