Rishi Sunak has pledged to introduce a temporary £10 fine for NHS patients who fail to attend a GP appointment as he tries to bridge the gap with Liz Truss in the Tory leadership race.

The former chancellor acknowledged he is “playing catch-up” to the foreign secretary in the battle to become the next prime minister.

This weekend saw him promise to end “woke nonsense” and vowed to slash the number of empty shops on Britain’s high streets, as well as a pledge to increase police powers to tackle anti-social behaviour in public spaces.

He said he would crack down on graffiti and littering by allowing local authorities to double the fines for such offences and would consider lowering the damage threshold for offenders to be jailed.

Mr Sunak told The Sunday Telegraph his plan to reform the NHS would include a temporary £10 fine for patients who fail to attend a GP or outpatient appointment.

“If we have people who are not showing up and taking those slots away from people who need it, that’s not right,” he told the newspaper. “I’m all for a healthcare system that’s free at the point of use, but not one that’s free at the point of misuse.”

He added: “Yes, it means we have to do something brave and something different, but that’s what I’m about doing. I want to be a transformational prime minister.”

More on Liz Truss

Meanwhile, Ms Truss has played down claims she has a clear lead over Mr Sunak – even as her campaign was endorsed by party heavyweight Tom Tugendhat – insisting it was a “very, very close race,” while boasting about her “support from right across all parts of the Conservative Party”.

She has pitched herself as the “education prime minister” with a plan that includes replacing failing academies with “a new wave of free schools”.

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Tugendhat backs Liz Truss

The foreign secretary unveiled a six-point strategy on Saturday “to get Britain’s education system back on track” which includes expanding existing academies which are high performing, while replacing failing ones with free schools – newly-set up academies.

Ms Truss said she had seen “first hand how children were failed and let down by low expectations” during her comprehensive state schooling in Leeds.

Rishi Sunak was asked to sign a copy of Margaret Thatcher's biography in Hampshire on Saturday
Rishi Sunak was asked to sign a copy of Margaret Thatcher’s biography in Hampshire on Saturday

The former minister for education and childcare also pledged to improve maths standards and meet the “target for 90% of primary children to reach the expected standard in literacy and numeracy”.

She said she would aim to give working parents access to childcare around the school day and extend the range of providers who accept government childcare entitlements.

Ms Truss, who studied at Oxford, also promised to reform admissions procedures for Oxbridge and other top universities “so students who get top grades in their A-levels would be automatically invited to apply”.

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss will take part in a head-to-head debate on Sky News on Thursday 4 August at 8pm hosted by Kay Burley.

If you would like to be a member of the live studio audience and be in with a chance of asking a question, please apply here.


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