Johnson admits 'it will be a stretch' to meet police recruitment pledge as he appears at hustings with Hunt

Boris Johnson has admitted it will be a "stretch" to fulfill his latest commitment to recruit an extra £20,000 police officers within three years, as he a spoke at a hustings event.

The former foreign secretary claimed that "you can do about 7 or 8,000 a year, it is a stretch", adding that the policing minister is "confident" it can be done.

Asked where the officers would be recruited from, Mr Johnson said: "They will come from all over the country.

"But there's an imperative to do it and we will certainly find... I've talked already today to Nick Hurd, the policing minister, and he's confident we can do it."

Mr Johnson is hoping to become the next PM as he tours the country answering questions from Conservative members at hustings. Credit: PA

Also speaking at the hustings event in York was rival Jeremy Hunt, whose pre-referendum views on Brexit contrasted with Mr Johnson's - an issue that some Conservative voters have a problem with.

Mr Hunt, who recently committed to a vote on fox hunting, said it was unacceptable for MPs to ignore their constituents' votes in the referendum, before saying his own voters chose to remain.

Asked if it is acceptable for MPs to ignore how their constituents voted in the referendum, he said: "No. It's not."

Then he was questioned about what he would say to MPs representing Remain-voting constituencies.

"There are lots of constituencies where more people voted Remain, my constituency is one of them," he said.

"But we didn't say we were going to take this decision constituency by constituency, we said we were going to take this decision as a country and 52% voted to leave."

Underdog Mr Hunt represents a constituency that voted to remain in the EU. Credit: PA

Leave-backing Mr Johnson appeared to contradict comments made by the chancellor when talking about the potential for a no-deal Brexit, claiming that outcome would provide a fiscal boost to the UK.

The Tory leadership race's frontrunner claimed that in the event of a no-deal Brexit on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms, the Government would be able to draw on the £39 billion saved from the UK's "divorce" settlement.

His remarks rejected an earlier warning by Chancellor Philip Hammond that the next prime minister would only have the "fiscal headroom" to increase spending if the UK left the EU with a deal.

"In the event of a no-deal Brexit, we will have an additional £39 billion to spend," he said.

"If there were to be a WTO Brexit, then clearly, logically, there would be extra funds available from the £39 billion - which is a very substantial sum at the upper end of what the EU expected - that we will be able to spend looking after farmers, looking after a whole range of sectors."

The pair of candidates both agreed on the apparent need to spend more to address the crisis in social care.

Mr Hunt said: "I do think that councils need more money to discharge their responsibilities on social care."

He added: "I also think we need to take more responsibilities ourselves. Just as we save for a pension throughout our lives, I think we need to create incentives for people to save for their social care costs as well."

He said the Government should also consider incentives to encourage people to look after elderly relatives in the family home.

On the other hand, Mr Johnson committed to a green paper on a free at the point of need social care overhaul, costing an estimated £8 billion.

"It simply cannot be fair that Alzheimer's or dementia are not properly funded in the way that other illnesses at the end of life are under the NHS."

Mr Johnson will be hoping his right hand in comparison to his left represents his finishing position in the race. Credit: PA

Pressed by moderator Hannah Vaughan Jones whether he would commit to a green paper on the topic, he said: "I will certainly commit."

He did not rule out taxation to fund the scheme.

On the issue of Conservatives being investigated for Islamophobia being able to vote in the contest, Mr Johnson said it was "vital" the party showed "zero tolerance for hatred, prejudice, discrimination" of all kinds.

Asked if members under investigation for Islamophobia should be allowed to vote in the leadership election, he said: "I don't want people who are convicted for the kind of prejudice you describe to take part in our party. Of course we must root it out."

He added: "I think sometimes it is important also that we have a culture that allows people to speak frankly and doesn't always necessarily convict them of malice aforethought. There is a balance to be struck."