PM’s Conference Speech
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has delivered his speech at the annual Conservative Party Conference. After much speculation in the media, the content was largely as anticipated. He had to walk a careful line with strong demands from his colleagues who are increasingly aware of the election coming next year.
He began by saying the Government has done good things since he became PM last October, and made progress against their five priorities. He went on to talk about the need for change, and referred to the UK having had ’30 years of underperformance.’
The Key Points
- The HS2 rail project will be cancelled with £36bn invested in other projects through the new Network North.
- Efforts to reduce inflation would take priority over tax cuts.
- A new qualification would be introduced, the Advanced British Standard, bringing A-levels and T-levels into a new, combined qualification.
- He promised to do ‘whatever it takes’ to tackle illegal immigration.
- There will be a free vote in parliament on increasing the smoking age by one year every year.
Tackling Inflation and Tax Cuts
The PM confirmed his number one priority as tackling inflation, saying ‘everything we want to achieve requires getting inflation under control. Inflation is the biggest destroyer of all – of industry, of jobs, of savings in a society. No policy which puts at risk the defeat of inflation, no matter its short term attraction, can be right’.
He went on to appeal to those in the party who have been calling for cuts in taxation by saying ‘I know you want tax cuts, I want them too and we will deliver them, but the best tax cut we can give right now is to halve inflation and ease the cost of living’.
HS2 and the new Network North
The Prime Minister described HS2 as ‘the ultimate example of the old consensus… for which the economic case has been massively weakened’. He said that the ‘facts have changed’ and that the right thing to do was to change direction by cancelling the rest of the HS2 project and investing ‘every penny’ of the £36bn invested in other projects ‘that will make a real difference’.
He then set out his plans for the new Network North which included protecting the £12bn to connect Manchester and Liverpool, building the Midlands Rail Hub, extending the West Midlands Metro, upgrading ‘the AI, A2, A5 and M6′, funding the Shipley bypass, the Blyth relief road, and ’70 other road schemes’. The details of these is to be announced.
He then confirmed that HS2 will run to Euston but that £6.5bn would be taken out of the budget for the Euston site and spent in other areas of the country. The current HS2 management will no longer be responsible for the Euston project.
There is likely to be more on all of these points in the Autumn Statement, due to be presented by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt on the 22nd November. We will of course be in touch with our summary of that speech as quickly as possible, and will summarise the key points, as well as advising clients of any actions they may wish to take as a result.
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