Rishi Sunak warns of 'hard choices' but vows to create opportunity in face of coronavirus pandemic

Rishi Sunak delivered his first speech as chancellor to the Tory party conference.
Rishi Sunak delivered his first speech as chancellor to the Tory party conference. Credit: PA

The chancellor has warned there are still "hard choices" left to be made in the UK's battle with coronavirus but promised his "single priority" will be to create opportunity in the face of the pandemic.

Rishi Sunak, in his first Conservative Party Conference speech as chancellor, said his aim for the coming months will be to "create, support and extend opportunity".

He said: "I have always said I couldn't protect every job or every business. No chancellor could.

"And even though I have said it, the pain of knowing it, only grows with each passing day.

"So, I am committing myself to a single priority - to create, support and extend opportunity to as many people as I can. "

He reassured struggling members of the public they will be supported by the "overwhelming might of the British state".

"We will not let talent wither, or waste, we will help all who want it, find new opportunity and develop new skills," he added.

Speaking at the virtual conference, Mr Sunak pledged to balance the economic books but admitted "hard choices are everywhere".

"We will protect the public finances, over the medium-term getting our borrowing and debt back under control. "

He added: "I have never pretended there is some easy cost-free answer - hard choices are everywhere."

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds criticised the chancellor's speech, saying it lacked any new commitments.

She tweeted: "The chancellor just spoke for 10 minutes, but he had nothing new to say.

"No new targeted support for millions facing the furlough cliff edge. Nothing new for the self-employed. Nothing for those excluded so far.

"He just blew his chance to get a grip on Britain's jobs crisis," she added.