I'm ready for a fight over HS2, says Conservative mayor

Andy Street, the West Midlands Mayor
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, speaking to reporters in Manchester - Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire

A Tory mayor has said he is ready for a “fight” with Rishi Sunak over HS2 amid expectations that the Birmingham to Manchester leg of the project will be scrapped.

The decision not to go ahead with the northern leg of the high speed railway is expected to be announced by Mr Sunak when he delivers his Conservative party conference speech on Wednesday.

It is thought the move could free up approximately £10billion which could be spent on other transport infrastructure projects.

After holding an impromptu press conference, Andy Street, the Tory Mayor of the West Midlands, tweeted: “I wasn’t expecting this in Manchester, but I won’t let HS2 go without a fight.

“The offer to the PM is there - work with me and the private sector, grip the costs, and build Britain’s future.”

The timing of Mr Sunak’s decision was always likely to cause controversy given the fact Tory conference is currently taking place in Manchester. Downing Street said “no final decisions have been taken” on HS2.

06:28 PM BST

That is all for today...

Thanks very much for joining us today as the second day of Conservative Party Conference comes to a close.

My colleague Jack Maidment will be back tomorrow to guide you through the penultimate day.

06:14 PM BST

Tory mayor ready to take HS2 'fight' to Sunak

A Tory mayor has said he is ready for a “fight” with Rishi Sunak over HS2 amid expectations that the Birmingham to Manchester leg of the project will be scrapped.

The decision not to go ahead with the northern leg of the high speed railway is expected to be announced by Mr Sunak when he delivers his Conservative party conference speech on Wednesday.

It is thought the move could free up approximately £10billion which could be spent on other transport infrastructure projects.

After holding an impromptu press conference, Andy Street, the Tory Mayor of the West Midlands, tweeted: “I wasn’t expecting this in Manchester, but I won’t let HS2 go without a fight.

“The offer to the PM is there - work with me and the private sector, grip the costs, and build Britain’s future.”

The timing of Mr Sunak’s decision was always likely to cause controversy given the fact Tory conference is currently taking place in Manchester. Downing Street said “no final decisions have been taken” on HS2.

05:34 PM BST

Watch: Truss backs Farage as she urges tax cuts

05:17 PM BST

Lunch with Priti Patel sells for £1,700 as she attacks Tory leadership for sidelining members

Lunch with Priti Patel sold for £1,700 at a Tory grassroots dinner as the former home secretary tore into the party leadership for sidelining members.

Activists and donors shelled out almost £10,000 for a dozen items at a fundraising auction, with the lots featuring memorabilia donated by Boris Johnson.

More than 200 guests flocked to the Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO) event, including former ministers Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg and Sir Conor Burns.

Nick Gutteridge has the full story

04:55 PM BST

Dame Priti Patel: Tories have 'vacated the pitch' on woke issues and must fight the culture wars

The Conservatives have “vacated the pitch” on woke issues and must do more to fight the culture wars, Dame Priti Patel has argued.

Dame Priti, the former home secretary, was speaking at a manifesto rally hosted by the New Conservatives group of backbench Tory MPs.

“This whole political correction, this culture, that has now taken over not just in our schools but public bodies, public departments in Whitehall as well, this nonsense and these distractions are created by the Left.

”And in my view it’s quite obvious why they do it. Starting arguments about unconscious bias or debating what a woman us, telling us how to think, it’s obviously much easier than doing the hard nine yards of governing.

“The reality is we need to absolutely not allow this ideology, the political correction that we see across our institutions, to dominate while we’re doing the heavy lifting. We have vacated the pitch on this and we do need to go back to our institutions, back to our schools, and give for example, in our schools, the parents the right to say no.”

Dame Priti said she was “absolutely horrified” by what she had heard from parents about the spread of gender ideology in classrooms, adding: “I want us as Conservatives to no longer vacate the pitch on this and, to coin a phrase that’s well known, take back a degree of control within our local councils, within our local authorities, within the public spaces.”

04:46 PM BST

'The whole country's got to pay for this'

The deputy chairman of the Conservative Party has voiced his support for backing the northern leg of HS2.

Lee Anderson said the costs had spiralled “out of control” amid uncertainty over the future of the Birmingham to Manchester connection, which The Telegraph understands ministers have decided to scrap.

Mr Anderson told GB News: “The whole country’s got to pay for this. Every single taxpayer in the UK has got to pay for this project, and it’s spiralling out of control.

“Now, I’m easy with it. If it goes ahead, I’ll support it, if they scrap it, I’ll support that, either way, but we need a decision and we need it very, very soon, because like I say the costs each week are out of control.”

He added: “I think if you gave the public a choice, especially in where I live, between high speed rail and better busses and tram services and local regional railways, they’ll go for the latter, obviously.”

04:42 PM BST

Good afternoon

Dominic Penna here, The Telegraph’s Political Correspondent, guiding you through the rest of the day.

I will be bringing you updates from the next couple of hours of the action at the annual Tory party conference in Manchester.

04:21 PM BST

Watch: What Tory MPs want from Rishi Sunak at Tory conference

04:18 PM BST

Burnham accuses ministers of 'pulling the plug' on north of England

Andy Burnham has accused the Government of “pulling the plug” on the north of England over the expected decision to cancel the Birmingham to Manchester HS2 leg.

Speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party conference, the Labour Mayor of Greater Manchester said: “This will be remembered as the conference when they pulled the plug on us.

“What gives them the right to treat people here in Greater Manchester and the north of England as second-class citizens?”

Mr Burnham added: “If this railway goes from outer London through the Home Counties and ends up in Birmingham, it will be a monument of the places Whitehall cares about.”

04:11 PM BST

Far fewer people should go to university, argue New Conservatives

Far fewer people should go to university and more money should be invested in apprenticeships instead, leading figures in the New Conservatives pressure group of Tory backbenchers have argued.

Lia Nici, the MP for Great Grimsby, told the Rally for the Manifesto event: “We know for the majority of people university does not work for them, university does not mean that they earn more money and university is not always a positive experience for people.

“They learn by doing, by action, not by sitting in fewer than two days’ presentations, by a lecturer, and then being told to go and do individual study, quite often in your own room alone. It is not positive, it is not good for the skills gap we have in the country.”

“At the moment, the outstanding debt we have in student loans is £206bn. Imagine what we could do with that amount of money if we diverted it into technical qualifications and apprenticeships.”

Sir John Redwood echoed a similar sentiment, adding: “I also believe that we need to be much more encouraging of self employment. We have lost 800,000 self employed since April 2020. We need to rebuild that mighty army that serves us so well. We need to show people that they can do it and it makes their lives more worthwhile.”

04:08 PM BST

Halve legal migration and end illegal migration, backbenchers tell Sunak

Rishi Sunak has been urged to halve legal immigration by the New Conservatives group of Tory backbenchers, writes Dominic Penna. 

Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, a former business secretary, told the group’s Rally for the Manifesto in Manchester that the immigration system in its current form benefits the “prosperous elite” at the expense of the unemployed and those on benefits.

“We need to halve legal migration and we also need to stop illegal migration,” Sir Jacob said, one of five policies the group is lobbying Mr Sunak to include in the next Tory manifesto.

Tom Hunt, the MP for Ipswich, added: “Being frank, it is not xenophobic when you walk into your town centre to not want to feel like you’re living in a foreign country.

“I don’t think that makes someone a xenophobe, I think that makes you somebody who wants integration... We should not shut the British public out of the debate around net migration. Ultimately legal migration matters also and if the Conservative Party don’t stand up for it nobody else well.”

04:04 PM BST

Grant Shapps issues warning over 'activist investors'

Grant Shapps has warned that “activist investors” pursuing environmental and diversity targets risk undermining the West’s support to Ukraine, writes Nick Gutteridge.

The Defence Secretary said he was “concerned” that companies which are supplying arms to Ukraine could be “disinvested” for political reasons.

He argued it was “obviously wrong” to pull finance from such firms under Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies at an event hosted by Policy Exchange.

“I have a concern at the margins about the longer term nature of this war which requires resupply of arms and it requires companies to go and do that directly,” he said.

“There is a class of activist investors that will tell you for ESG reasons you shouldn’t invest in anything to do with military defence and provision.

“It is obvious to me that it is wrong for companies to be disinvested on the basis of providing military support.”

04:00 PM BST

Union fury over plan to cut size of civil service

Unions have responded with fury to Jeremy Hunt’s pledge to slash the size of the civil service (see the post below at 14.18).

Mike Clancy, general secretary of Prospect, said: “We now have government ministers rushing out policies at Tory conference in a desperate attempt to shore up their own support from the hard-right of their party.

“This says more about the electoral problems facing the Conservative Party than it does about effectively running the country.

“As a union, we have demanded a meeting with ministers to convey the real sense of alarm among their own staff that ministers have unleashed with this dangerous announcement.”

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union which represents senior civil servants, said that “picking a point in time in the past and deciding that is the right number of staff to deal with the public service challenges of the future is intellectually bereft”.

He said: “It is so glaringly arbitrary that all it does is demonstrate that this is not a serious government.”

03:54 PM BST

Labour: Sunak's 'relaunch coming off the rails'

Louise Haigh, the shadow transport secretary, claimed Rishi Sunak’s “relaunch” was “coming off the rails” as Labour responded to the HS2 news.

Ms Haigh said: “This fiasco shows the Conservatives are too divided and too distracted to take this country forward. After weeks of chaos and indecision on the biggest infrastructure project in the country, Rishi Sunak’s relaunch is now coming off the rails.

“This shambolic conference is showcasing precisely why working people cannot afford five more years of the Conservatives.”

03:38 PM BST

Education Secretary announces plan to reduce impact of university strikes

Minimum service levels could be introduced for university lecturers to stop students facing strike disruption, Gillian Keegan has said.

The Education Secretary told the Conservative Party conference: “Many will still want to go to university and that will be the right choice for them, and if they do they should get the education that they paid for, that is common sense, right?

“Apparently not, because over recent years we have seen constant strikes, we have students not getting the education they paid for, and some not even having their degrees marked. This is outrageous behaviour.”

She added: “Today, I am announcing that we will consult to introduce minimum service levels in universities, so that they have the tools to make sure that students get the teaching that they deserve.”

03:33 PM BST

Gillian Keegan confirms mobile phone ban in schools

Gillian Keegan has confirmed the Government’s plans for a blanket ban of mobile phones in schools, describing them as one of the “biggest issues” facing teachers.

The Education Secretary told the Conservative Party conference in Manchester: “Today, one of the biggest issues facing children and teachers is grappling with the impact of smartphones in our schools.

“The distraction, the disruption, the bullying. We know that teachers are struggling with their impact and we know that they need support.

“So, today we are recognising the amazing work that many schools have done in banning mobile phones and we are announcing that we will change guidance so that all schools will follow their lead.”

03:21 PM BST

Lib Dems: Tory conference 'mired in chaos'

The Liberal Democrats said the Conservative Party’s annual conference had become “mired in chaos” as it responded to the HS2 news.

Wera Hobhouse, the Lib Dems’ transport spokeswoman, said: “Rishi Sunak using a conference in Manchester to cancel the Northern leg of HS2 would make Liz Truss look like a political genius. Yet again, a Conservative Party conference has become mired in chaos while the country suffers.

“This would be a bitter blow for communities and businesses who have seen promise after promise broken by this Conservative government. The Conservatives have already trashed today’s economy, now it seems Rishi Sunak is doing everything he can to trash our future economy too.”

03:16 PM BST

No10: No final decision taken on HS2

Downing Street said “no final decisions have been taken” on HS2.

A No10 spokesman said: “These reports are incorrect. No final decisions have been taken on Phase 2 of HS2.”

03:11 PM BST

Standing room only for New Conservatives rally

It is standing room only for a rally held by the New Conservatives group of backbench MPs in the Manchester Convention Centre, writes Dominic Penna.

The New Conservatives consists of approximately 20 MPs, all elected since 2016, but their rally is also being addressed by Tory “big beasts” including Dame Priti Patel and Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg.

The group is led by Miriam Cates and Danny Kruger, both of whom will be speaking today.

In a video address, Sir Bill Cash, who cannot be here in person as he is collecting his Companion of Honour medal, began proceedings by railing against “woke ideologies and Marxist legislation” before calling for tax cuts.

03:04 PM BST

Kemi Badenoch blasts critics of Government's equalities approach

Kemi Badenoch has hit out at critics of the Government’s decisions on equality issues as she invoked the words of American civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King.

The Business Secretary, who is also the minister for women and equalities, told the Conservative Party conference: “Conservatives want young people to be proud of their country when others want them to be ashamed.

“It wasn’t a tough decision for us to reject the divisive agenda of critical race theory. We believe, as Martin Luther King once said, people should be judged by the content of their character, not the colour of their skin.

“If that puts us in conflict with those who would re-racialise society, who would put up the divisions that have been torn down, then, conference, all I can say is bring it on.

“Let Labour bend the knee before this altar of intolerance, we will keep building a country that is in every way stronger and fairer for all.”

02:57 PM BST

Join the conversation

Telegraph readers have been discussing Nigel Farage’s appearance at Tory conference and his remarks on tax cuts (see the posts below at 12.23 and 12.25) in the comments section at the bottom of today’s live blog:

Paul Sheppard said: “I’m not certain that Mr Farage really has the experience and insight to public finance to be able to offer a qualified opinion on tax cuts. Obviously we all want to see them, but there’s a lot more to achieving them than simply cutting away.”

James Bulloch said: “I think that we should be spending less. Then we can afford tax cuts. Start with removing green subsidies. They’re expensive, and do remarkably little about carbon emissions. After that, taper off benefits to the unemployed. And stop with the insane pension triple lock. And stop with the NHS entirely outside an A&E service, so people fund their own health care via insurance, as happens in most developed nations.”

You can join the conversation in the comments section below - just look for the speech bubble icon underneath the first post of the day.

Nigel Farage prepares for a TV appearance during day two of Conservative Party conference in Manchester
Nigel Farage prepares for a TV appearance during day two of Conservative Party conference in Manchester - Paul Grover for The Telegraph

02:54 PM BST

Reader poll: Should Jeremy Hunt listen to Liz Truss and cut corporation tax?

02:53 PM BST

Analysis: Hunt's speech blown out of the water by HS2 news

Jeremy Hunt’s speech was notable for two reasons.

One, it’s brevity. It is hard to recall a previous speech by a Tory chancellor at conference coming to such an abrupt end. Mr Hunt’s address lasted just 14 minutes.

Two, the lack of major new policy announcements. The big reveal in the speech was a pledge to cut the size of the civil service. Significant, but not exactly a box office pledge to win over wavering voters, especially with a general election likely to take place next year.

The reality is Mr Hunt’s speech was swiftly overshadowed by the news that the HS2 line between Manchester and Birmingham is going to be axed.

That shadow is likely to be enduring, with HS2’s future now set to dominate the next 48 hours here in Manchester.

02:45 PM BST

Watch: Anti-Brexit protester removed from Tory fringe event

02:42 PM BST

HS2 Birmingham to Manchester leg to be scrapped

The Birmingham to Manchester leg of HS2 will be scrapped, The Telegraph understands.

The decision not to go ahead with the northern leg of the high speed railway is expected to be announced by Rishi Sunak when he delivers his Tory conference speech on Wednesday.

It is thought the move could free up approximately £10billion which could be spent on other transport infrastructure projects.

02:22 PM BST

Hunt announces benefits crackdown on job seekers

Moving onto the welfare system, Jeremy Hunt said the “safety net” is paid for from tax and “that social contact depends on fairness to those in work alongside compassion to those who aren’t”.

He said the Government will launch a crackdown on the unemployed who claim benefits but who do not actively seek a job.

He said there will be a review of the sanctions regime, telling Tory activists: “It isn’t fair that someone who refuses to look seriously for a job gets the same as someone trying their best.”

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, applauds during Jeremy Hunt's speech on day two of Tory conference in Manchester
Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, applauds during Jeremy Hunt's speech on day two of Tory conference in Manchester - Danny Lawson/PA

02:18 PM BST

Chancellor pledges to cut size of civil service to save £1bn

Jeremy Hunt announced a freeze to the expansion of the civil service.

The Chancellor said he wanted the civil service to return to its pre-pandemic size in a move which he said would save £1billion next year.

He said that the civil service had increased by 66,000 during the pandemic.

“New policies should not always mean new people so today I am freezing the expansion of the civil service and putting in place a plan to reduce its numbers to pre-pandemic levels,” he said.

“This will save £1billion next year.”

02:15 PM BST

Level of tax is 'too high', says Hunt

Jeremy Hunt said that “nothing hurts families more” than high levels of inflation as he restated Rishi Sunak’s pledge to halve it by the end of this year.

Pointing to recent falls in inflation levels, the Chancellor said: “We are getting there... the plan is working and now we must see it through...”

Mr Hunt said that the Tories “will always protect public services but we are also honest about the taxes that pay for them” as he said the “level of tax is too high”.

02:12 PM BST

Chancellor tells 'pessimists': 'Don't bet against Britain'

Jeremy Hunt pointed to the recent revision to the UK’s economic data, showing the economy had actually grown rather than shrunk since the start of the pandemic.

The Chancellor delivered a message to “all the pessimists and declinists talking us down” as he told them: “Don’t bet against Britain, it has been tried before and it never works.”

02:09 PM BST

Hunt starts speech with joke about return to Tory frontbench

Jeremy Hunt is now on stage in Manchester.

The Chancellor said the last time he addressed Tory conference was when he was foreign secretary.

He joked that it was “great to see the PM getting the over 50s back into work”.

02:02 PM BST

Sunak takes his seat for Hunt speech

Rishi Sunak has just taken his seat in the main conference hall in Manchester ahead of Jeremy Hunt’s speech which is due to get underway in the next few minutes.

Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, is pictured at Tory conference today
Rishi Sunak, the Prime Minister, is pictured at Tory conference today - Toby Meville /Reuters

01:58 PM BST

Lord Frost sets out three priorities for Sunak's speech

Lord Frost has set out the three things he would like to hear in Rishi Sunak’s speech on Wednesday, writes Gordon Rayner. 

He listed the following as he took part in a Tory conference fringe event in Manchester:

  1. A picture of how Conservative Britain will be different from Labour Britain, and what Conservative Britain is about.

  2. A commitment to a tax cut before the next election and the spending cuts that would go with it, to help the party’s credibility.

  3. A “red team” fundamental look at net zero.

01:52 PM BST

Education Secretary refuses to rule out future lockdown-style school closures

The Education Secretary has said she cannot rule out pandemic-style school closures in the future, writes Louisa Clarence-Smith. 

Gillian Keegan refused to take class lockdowns off the table after Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, said that they were “the worst thing that could possibly have happened” for children during the pandemic.

He said: “I hope we never, ever again repeat this terrible, terrible experiment.”

Responding during a Conservative Party Conference fringe event in Manchester, Mrs Keegan said: “Iain says we hope we would never do a lockdown again, and I agree with that. I often get asked that question.

“But of course you don’t know the circumstances. If you were in a completely different set of circumstances where it was awful for children and of course you have to consider teachers as well, you know you do have to look at the circumstances.”

You can read the full story here.

01:43 PM BST

State pension age might have to rise to 75, says Lord Frost

The state pension age might have to be raised to 75 to make public spending sustainable, Lord Frost has said.

Asked by Mark Littlewood, Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs think tank, whether the state pension age will have to be raised to 70 to cut the mushrooming welfare budget, Lord Frost replied: “Or 75. People are much healthier now. We do need to do something like freezing the public sector health budget and finding a just way that public sector spending needs to go into the private sector.

“We spend one trillion on public spending, if we took £200 billion out over a parliament that would make a difference but it would be hard to do.”

Lord Frost said he was considering giving up his seat in the Lords to stand as an MP, and might make an announcement in the next few months, writes Gordon Rayner.

The conference slogan is “Long Term Decisions for a Brighter Future”, and Lord Frost said: “I thought it was a joke. I didn’t realise it was the actual slogan.”

01:28 PM BST

Priti Patel blasts politicians for 'just accepting big government'

Dame Priti Patel appeared to criticise Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Hunt for “just accepting big government” as she called for more to be done to liberalise the economy, writes Dominic Penna.

The former home secretary told the Great British Growth Rally: “We need to get growth back. We cannot be timid anymore, we cannot be risk-averse and we cannot accept the status quo.

“Because currently politics and politicians in this country are just accepting big government, and we can’t have that. Bring back the spirit of dynamism back into our economy but actually back to the people of Britain once and for all. And that is how we make Britain grow again.”

Speaking just before Dame Priti, Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, a former business secretary, called on the Government to abolish inheritance tax.

01:20 PM BST

Farage attends first Tory conference since 'late eighties'

Nigel Farage said it was his first time attending a Conservative Party conference in more than three decades, writes Dominic Penna. 

The former Ukip leader attended a black tie dinner hosted by the grassroots Conservative Democratic Organisation (CDO) caucus on Sunday night, before showing up to the Great British Growth Rally, hosted by Liz Truss and a number of her political allies this afternoon.

Asked by The Telegraph when he had last attended a Tory conference, Mr Farage, who was once a member, replied: “The late eighties.”

Nigel Farage, the former leader of the Brexit Party, is pictured at Tory conference in Manchester today
Nigel Farage, the former leader of the Brexit Party, is pictured at Tory conference in Manchester today - Carl Court/Getty Images Europe

01:04 PM BST

Cut inheritance tax to 'squeeze the state', says Lord Frost

The Tories should cut inheritance tax to “squeeze the state”, Lord Frost has said, as he argued that any tax cut that can be implemented should be seized with both hands, writes Gordon Rayner. 

Speaking to John O’Connell, chief executive of the Taxpayers’ Alliance at a Conservative Party conference fringe event, Lord Frost said any tax cut was a way of “starving the beast” and shrinking the state.

He said: “If the politics was in place and everybody wanted a smaller state and a lower tax burden you would have room for a proper discussion about where you want the cuts to come, but we are not in that position.

“If the politics is in place to do a tax cut of some kind we should take it because we believe in starving the beast. If inheritance tax is what’s on offer then take it and begin to squeeze the state.”

Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, has indicated that there will not be tax cuts before the election.

12:49 PM BST

Government is 'too big' and taxes are 'too high', says Truss

Liz Truss said the state is “too big” and “we are spending too much” as she called for major changes in Whitehall.

The ex-premier said: “Government spending as a proportion of GDP is now 46 per cent. It has not been higher since the 1970s and in fact it was lower for most of the 1970s, apart from 1975.

“That is the only year where government spending as a proportion of GDP has been higher. So we need to acknowledge the government is too big, that taxes are too high and that we are spending too much. That is very important.”

Liz Truss, Ranil Jayawardena, Dame Priti Patel and Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg attend a fringe event at Tory conference in Manchester this afternoon
Liz Truss, Ranil Jayawardena, Dame Priti Patel and Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg attend a fringe event at Tory conference in Manchester this afternoon - Stefan Rousseau/PA

12:45 PM BST

No10 to launch crackdown on civil servants working from home

Downing Street will launch a fresh crackdown on civil servants working from home within the next few weeks, a Cabinet minister has revealed.

Jeremy Quin, the Paymaster General, announced that he will be issuing new orders for mandarins to return to the office this Autumn, writes Nick Gutteridge.

He told a Tory conference fringe event that he will also be unveiling plans to move more officials out of London as part of a Whitehall shakeup.

Mr Quin said the proposals form an “unremitting focus on driving productivity” within the civil service and break it out of a “comfortable London bubble”.

The Paymaster General is also drawing up plans for performance based pay so those mandarins who produce the best result receive higher bonuses.

12:43 PM BST

Truss calls for 500,000 new homes to be built every year

Liz Truss has called for 500,000 new homes to be built every year.

The former prime minister said: “I think we need to turbocharge the incentives. We need to incentivise local areas to build more homes through giving them tax breaks if they are prepared to get rid of that red tape.

“I think we need to do it a level so we are building 500,000 new homes every year. I think that is the state we are now in. The prices are so high, the cost of living is so difficult for families that we need to build 500,000 homes every year.”

Liz Truss, the former prime minister, is pictured during day two of Conservative Party conference in Manchester
Liz Truss, the former prime minister, is pictured during day two of Conservative Party conference in Manchester - Paul Grover for The Telegraph

12:38 PM BST

Truss urges Hunt to cut corporation tax at Autumn Statement

Liz Truss has urged Jeremy Hunt to cut the level of corporation tax at the Autumn Statement next month.

The former prime minister said: “That is why I am calling upon the Chancellor at the Autumn Statement to put corporation tax back down to 19 per cent.

“And frankly if we can get it lower, the better.”

Ms Truss said the Government needed to be “hungry to attract business to our country” and the Tories needed to become the “party of business again”.

She said: “Business shouldn’t be a cash cow to be milked, it is a future investment in our prosperity.”

The Autumn Statement is scheduled to take place on November 22.

12:35 PM BST

Liz Truss sets out plan to make UK 'grow again'

Liz Truss is now addressing the Great British Growth Rally event at Tory conference.

Ms Truss said the Conservatives needed to take steps to make life “easier and better for families across our land” and to make “Britain grow again”.

She said progress had been made but “we need to do more”.

She said she was proposing “axing the tax, cutting the bills and building the homes”.

12:25 PM BST

Farage senses 'rebellious mood' at Tory conference

Asked why he was at the Conservative Party conference, given he is the honorary president of the Reform UK party, Nigel Farage had high praise for Liz Truss.

He said: “It’s policy that interests me. I think this woman has shown that she’s able to stand up take the abuse and fight.”

Referencing a famous Morecambe and Wise sketch, Mr Farage said Ms Truss’s ill-fated mini-Budget saw her “playing all the right notes, just not in the right order… I think that’s what we saw with the Truss premiership”.

Asked who the best Tory leader would be if Rishi Sunak lost the election, he replied: “I honestly don’t know at this stage. What I do sense being here today is there is a pretty rebellious mood. It’s an admission that after 13 years things aren’t better.”

Nigel Farage is pictured at Conservative Party conference in Manchester today
Nigel Farage is pictured at Conservative Party conference in Manchester today - Andrew McClaren/London News Pictures Ltd

12:23 PM BST

Nigel Farage attending Liz Truss event

Nigel Farage is here at the Great British Growth Rally, where he has been mobbed by broadcasters and camera crews, writes Dominic Penna.

“I absolutely 100 per cent believe in her,” he said of Liz Truss, who is the star speaker at the rally taking place this lunchtime.

“I think what they did to her was a huge, huge mistake,” he added, describing it as “a massive two fingers up” to small business owners.

“The queue is just extraordinary and that’s because she’s talking the language of tax cuts. And don’t forget these are the people going who voted for her to become leader.”

“[Rishi Sunak’s] speech is probably his last chance to turn the ship around… what’s really happening this week is who and what takes over the party after we lose the next election.”

12:09 PM BST

Cleverly refused to travel in Chinese government vehicle during trip to Beijing

The Chinese government demanded James Cleverly use one of its cars during his visit to Beijing earlier this year but he refused, writes Genevieve Holl-Allen.

Speaking at a live recording of The Spectator’s Chinese Whispers podcast, the Foreign Secretary said as part of discussions around him meeting officials in August was whether or not he would travel in a CCCP vehicle.

Mr Cleverly said: “There’s a whole load of things [about organising a visit], particularly with the Chinese system about, just simple things like your minister can come but he has to travel in a Chinese government car.

“And I’m like, ‘No, I will travel with the ambassador in our car’. So there’s loads of things like that.”

11:55 AM BST

Huge queue for Liz Truss fringe event

At least 200 Tory activists — and counting — are in the queue for the Great British Growth Rally, which will see Liz Truss and her allies make the case for tax cuts, writes Dominic Penna. 

The former prime minister will be joined by Sir Jacob Rees-Mogg, Dame Priti Patel and Ranil Jayawardena.

There is excited chatter among those waiting for the talk in the Midland Hotel, due to get underway just after noon, with Ms Truss proving to be one of the most popular draws of the fringe schedule so far.

Michael Gove just walked past the line of hundreds of Tory activists waiting for the rally.

When he found out what the queue was for, Mr Gove replied: “Oh, really?”

11:53 AM BST

Jeremy Hunt to deliver speech at 2pm

That is it for the morning session in the main hall at Tory conference in Manchester.

Jeremy Hunt will kick off the afternoon session with his eagerly anticipated speech just after 2pm.

11:32 AM BST

Tories 'proudly pro-car', says Mark Harper

Mark Harper said that some people in the “metropolitan bubble” would have you believe that “owning a car was immoral” or a “dirty habit”.

But speaking on the main stage of the conference hall in Manchester, the Transport Secretary said: “It is the Conservative Party which is proudly pro-car.”

Mr Harper said he was bringing forward a “comprehensive plan to back drivers”. That will include investigating ways to restrict councils which are guilty of the “overzealous use of traffic management measures”.

11:25 AM BST

Pictured: Liz Truss arrives at Tory conference ahead of growth rally appearance

Liz Truss, the former prime minister, arrives at Tory conference in Manchester this morning
Liz Truss, the former prime minister, arrives at Tory conference in Manchester this morning - Carl Court/Getty Images Europe

11:23 AM BST

Motorists can change to clean vehicle 'when price is right for them', says Coutinho

Motorists will be able to make the transition to cleaner vehicles “when the price is right for them” after the Government pushed back the date for a ban on the sale of new diesel and petrol cars from 2030 to 2035, Claire Coutinho said.

The Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary also told Tory activists: “We are raising our ambitions on clean energy and innovation but we are making it financially easier for people to change their boilers and crucially this will be by choice, not coercion.”

Ms Coutinho also announced that six companies have today been shortlisted to advance their Small Modular Reactor (SMR) designs in a move which she said will boost energy security.

11:16 AM BST

Claire Coutinho: 'Immoral' to 'impoverish' people over net zero

Claire Coutinho said the net zero drive for too many people “had started to feel like an intolerable cost” at a time when households can “least afford it” as she defended the recent decision to water down some of the Government’s green policies.

The Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary said politicians needed to “be honest about the challenges ahead” but that also she believed the net zero transition “should be a cause of optimism for the country”.

Ms Coutinho said it would be “immoral” to “impoverish” people in the UK because of green policies when emissions are rising elsewhere.

She said: “If we are to succeed, net zero can’t be something that is done to people by a privileged elite. We cannot force people to make the wrong decisions for their families and it is immoral to put forward policies that will impoverish people here when emissions are rising abroad.”

Ms Coutinho argued that net zero has “become a religion” for climate change activists.

11:08 AM BST

Energy security key to securing greater prosperity, says Coutinho

Claire Coutinho, the Energy Security and Net Zero Secretary, is now delivering her speech in the main conference hall in Manchester.

Ms Coutinho said that the UK is “going to succeed in the decades ahead if, and only if, we source enough energy”.

She said that if the UK gets its energy strategy correct it will result in “greater prosperity” but if the UK gets it wrong then the nation will “lose jobs and investment and our path to a greener future”.

10:53 AM BST

Pictured: Gillian Keegan arrives at Tory conference in Manchester this morning

Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, arrives at Tory conference in Manchester this morning
Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, arrives at Tory conference in Manchester this morning - Ian Forsyth/Getty Images Europe

10:45 AM BST

David Davis calls for 'modest tax cut' this year

David Davis said he believed the Government does have the economic space to bring forward a “modest tax cut” this year, despite Jeremy Hunt suggesting this morning that it is not possible (see the post below at 07.44).

The former Cabinet minister told Sky News: “I think actually I am with those who believe that a moderate tax cut, a modest tax cut, is possible this year. Why do I say that? Well, they are being very cautious in terms of deficit to borrowing and so on.

“Look at what has happened to the forecasts that the Bank of England, the OBR, the Treasury, have put up in the last year. They have all been pessimistic.

“We had a reassessment of the size of the economy only a couple of months ago so they are being too pessimistic and I think that is probably what is being said to the Chancellor and the Prime Minister and if I were them I would aim off a bit and say actually we can probably afford a bit more than the Bank and the Treasury and the OBR are telling us.”

Mr Davis suggested a change could be made to inheritance tax or to income tax.

10:35 AM BST

David Davis: Sunak has done 'half the job' and must set out vision for UK

Rishi Sunak has done “half the job” by restoring a sense of “competence” to the Government but he must now set out his vision for the future, David Davis said this morning.

The former Brexit secretary told Sky News: “What is most important will be the leader’s speech at the end [of conference] because at the moment Rishi’s done half the job.

“He has taken a hold of the Government, he has given a sense of grip and competence and so on, but what he hasn’t done is expressed a vision for the future in terms that people understand it themselves, whether I can buy a house, whether I have got enough money to get by, whether my pension is going to work. All those sorts of things.

“He needs to do that.”

10:29 AM BST

UK must 'grip' challenge of AI, says Science Secretary

The Science Secretary said Britain needs to get a “grip” of the challenges posed by artificial intelligence (AI) to lead the world in the sector, writes Dominic Penna. 

Michelle Donelan told an event hosted by the Policy Exchange think tank this morning that the Government was working to challenge the US and China to become a tech superpower by 2030.

“I think we’re losing too many great companies and great talent to countries like America and we need to really examine that problem… There’s more that we can be doing,” Ms Donelan said.

Michelle Donelan, the Science Secretary, is pictured during day two at Tory conference in Manchester
Michelle Donelan, the Science Secretary, is pictured during day two at Tory conference in Manchester - Hollie Adams/Bloomberg

“I often think when you mention the word regulation to a conservative the hairs on their backs stand up, but I actually think regulation can be a positive thing too. Because my mantra is about making sure we’re regulating to innovate.

“I do see [AI] as the accelerator in this agenda. We all know that AI is a transformative technology, it is still emerging, but the rate at which it is developing is like nothing we’ve ever seen before.”

She added: “And that will offer incredible opportunities for mankind but it also presents big risks, and that’s why as a nation we need to grip those challenges. I personally think if we lead on AI safety we will be able to lead on AI. And the country that manages to do that will become the envy of the world in the digital agenda.”

10:22 AM BST

Pictured: Kemi Badenoch arrives at Tory conference this morning

Kemi Badenoch, the Business and Trade Secretary, arrives at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester this morning
Kemi Badenoch, the Business and Trade Secretary, arrives at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester this morning - Adam Vaughan /Shutterstock

10:21 AM BST

Who is delivering speeches at Conservative Party conference today?

It is a busy day in the main hall in Manchester today. These are the senior Tories we are due to hear from:

From 11am: 

  • Claire Coutinho, Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero

  • Mark Harper, Secretary of State for Transport

  • Lucy Frazer, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

From 2pm: 

  • Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor of the Exchequer

  • Kemi Badenoch, Secretary of State for Business and Trade

  • Mel Stride, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

  • Thérèse Coffey, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

  • Gillian Keegan, Secretary of State for Education

10:17 AM BST

Pictured: Jeremy Hunt visits construction site in Manchester ahead of conference speech this afternoon

Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, is pictured during a visit to the construction site of the Co-op Live indoor entertainment arena in Manchester this morning
Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, is pictured during a visit to the construction site of the Co-op Live indoor entertainment arena in Manchester this morning - Toby Melville /PA

10:09 AM BST

Liz Truss to call for revival of 'Conservative values' at fringe event

Liz Truss will call for a revival of “Conservative values” as she makes her sole appearance at Tory conference in Manchester at lunchtime.

The former prime minister is due to address a “Great British Growth Rally” event which will also see her call once again for the de facto fracking ban to be lifted and for corporation tax to be slashed.

She will argue “we need to make the case for Conservatism again” and “do more to revive Conservative values and show that they deliver”.

10:03 AM BST

Tories 'fighting like rats in a sack' on tax, claim Lib Dems

The Liberal Democrats claimed the Tories are “fighting like rats in a sack” over tax policy.

Sarah Olney, the Lib Dems’ Treasury spokeswoman, said: “The Conservative Party are fighting like rats in a sack, while families pay the price through higher mortgages, taxes and shopping bills.

“People are fed up with this endless Conservative soap opera. Rishi Sunak has lost control of his party and lost the trust of the country. The sooner we get this divided and out-of-touch government out of power the better.”

09:53 AM BST

Work in prisons should 'feel a lot more like having a job on the outside'

Work in prisons should “feel a lot more like having a job on the outside”, the prisons minister has said.

Speaking at a fringe event in Manchester on reducing crime and reoffending, Damian Hinds said prisoners should get “in the habit of work” while in jail, Genevieve Holl-Allen reports.

He said making sure that prisoners can hold down a job after completing their sentence was as important as staying off drugs and having a stable living situation after leaving jail in terms of reducing recidivism.

Mr Hinds said: “If we don’t take this opportunity while we have people locked up to give them a decent education, to get them in the habit of work then we have failed.”

He added: “I want work in prisons to feel a lot more like having a job on the outside.”

He also described the number of people leaving prison every year as an “enormous” economic opportunity as a group able to join the workforce.

09:51 AM BST

Mobile phones to be banned in state school classrooms

Mobile phones will be banned from state school classrooms, the Education Secretary will announce later today.

Gillian Keegan, who is due to deliver her conference speech in Manchester this afternoon, is set to ban smartphones from classrooms in England both during lessons and in breaktimes to ensure pupils can concentrate, the Daily Mail reported.

Sources close to the discussions say that Ms Keegan will issue new guidance to schools requiring them to put new measures in place to stop pupils from using their phones.

You can read the full story here.

09:39 AM BST

Tories' Susan Hall says she will be 'first female Labour' mayor of London in conference gaffe

Susan Hall, the Conservative candidate in the London mayoral election, suffered a misstep in Manchester yesterday as she told activists at a Tory conference fringe event that next year she will become the “first female Labour” mayor of the capital, before swiftly correcting herself.

She said next year she will be “sitting at my desk in City Hall as your first female Labour, no not Labour, never Labour, your first female London mayor...”

Here is the clip:

09:21 AM BST

Jeremy Hunt distances himself from Suella Braverman over migrant remarks

Jeremy Hunt appeared to distance himself from Suella Braverman’s remarks on immigration as he said he “wouldn’t use her words”.

Ms Braverman used a speech in the US last week to argue that multiculturalism had failed and uncontrolled illegal migration posed an “existential challenge” to the West.

Asked about the Home Secretary’s speech, the Chancellor told TalkTV: “I am married to an immigrant and I’ve always believed that we benefit massively as a country from welcoming the brightest and best from all over the world.

“Suella Braverman wouldn’t use my words, I wouldn’t use her words. But she’s absolutely right that the social contract that makes Britain one of the most tolerant countries in the world when it comes to immigrants depends on fairness.

“And what we’re seeing at the moment with these criminal gangs smuggling thousands of people over the Channel is not fair. It’s an abuse of the way the law works in Britain, it’s an abuse of all the public services that you get free of charge here.

“And she is absolutely right to tackle that because otherwise we will undermine that social contract, and we won’t have that tolerant attitude that we’re so proud of having in this country.”

09:06 AM BST

Labour accuse Tories of 'writing people off'

Labour accused the Tories of “writing people off” as the party responded to Jeremy Hunt’s plans for a crackdown on benefits claimants.

Liz Kendall, the shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “Labour believes in responsibility: that those who can work, should look for work and take jobs when they are offered.

“But the Government also has a responsibility to create real opportunities and not write people off. This is something the Tories have utterly failed to deliver. We now have record numbers of people out of work due to long term sickness, which is costing taxpayers an extra £15bn a year just since the pandemic.

“In contrast, Labour has a serious plan to grow the economy, bring the benefits bill down and get Britain working.”

08:53 AM BST

Chancellor flew to Manchester from London

Train strikes wreaked havoc with people’s travel plans to get to Manchester on Saturday and Jeremy Hunt revealed this morning that he had flown from London to make it to the Tories’ annual gathering.

The Chancellor told BBC Breakfast: “I took a BA flight because I was told that my train had been cancelled.”

Asked about his return journey, he said: “I’ll probably be driving home because I think there’s another train strike on Wednesday.”

Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, speaks to the media in Manchester this morning
Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, speaks to the media in Manchester this morning - Hannah McKay/Reuters

08:47 AM BST

Timing of next election is 'matter for the PM', says Hunt

Jeremy Hunt said the date of the next general election “is a matter for the Prime Minister” after he was asked if hitting Rishi Sunak’s goal of halving inflation could prompt a snap poll.

The Prime Minister made the pledge to halve inflation by the end of this year in January when it was at just above 10 per cent. Inflation in September was at 6.7 per cent, giving the PM just a few more months to get to five per cent.

Asked if succeeding on the pledge could be the trigger for an election, Mr Hunt told Sky News: “Timing of the general election is a matter for the Prime Minister... what he wants to do is to get on with taking the difficult decisions to put this country on the right track.

“He is prepared to take on areas that other prime ministers, other adminstrations have ducked. You are going to see that and we are thinking about getting on with that rather than the date of the next election.”

08:32 AM BST

Announcement on triple lock to be made at Autumn Statement

Jeremy Hunt has given a hint that the Tories will recommit to keeping the triple lock on pensions as he said an announcement will be made on the matter at the Autumn Statement.

Ministers have said they are committed to the pledge - which means the state pension goes up by whichever is highest out of inflation, wage growth or 2.5 per cent - during the current parliament but they have not said they will include it in the next Tory manifesto.

The Chancellor told Sky News: “You will hear what we’re going to do on that in the Autumn Statement. But look at our actions to date, we have always prioritised that group of people.”

08:18 AM BST

Hunt silent on future of HS2

Ministers will announce their decision on the future of HS2 at the “appropriate time”, Jeremy Hunt said this morning as speculation continues to mount that the Birmingham to Manchester leg will be scrapped.

Asked if a decision had been made, the Chancellor told Sky News: “You will have to wait until the appropriate time.”

Asked again if a decision had been made, Mr Hunt said: “We have had lots of disucssions and let me tell you why we have had those discussions. As Chancellor you would expect me to want to answer the question as to why it costs 10 times more to build a high speed rail line in Britain compared to France because this is the public’s money we are talking about.”

Asked for a third time if a decision had been made, he said: “Politics as you know very, very well, decisions are not made until they are announced and at the appropriate time we will make the annoucement.”

08:06 AM BST

Jeremy Hunt rules out another bid for Tory leadership

Jeremy Hunt has ruled out making another bid for the Tory leadership, saying he has been “completely cured” of any such ambitions.

The Chancellor told Times: “I’m pleased to say I’ve been completely cured of that at the moment.”

He said that “there is another reason not just to do with Jeremy Hunt”, which is that “we have an amazing Prime Minister”.

Heaping praise on Rishi Sunak, Mr Hunt said he “works phenomenally hard” and “has an incredible grasp of detail”.

08:01 AM BST

Benefits crackdown will require unemployed to prove they are 'actively looking for work'

Benefits claimants who refuse to look for work will face harsher punishments under a crackdown to be announced by Jeremy Hunt when he delivers his conference speech in Manchester this afternoon (you can read the full story here).

The Chancellor said this morning that the crackdown will require claimants to be demonstrate that they are “actively trying to look for work”.

He told Times Radio: “We have got 300,000 people who have been out of work without any illness or disability for more than a year and what we are saying is we are going to look at the way the sanction system works so it is not just about process, did you turn up to the Job Centre, but we are making sure that those people are actively engaging with the process of getting to work because their benefits are being paid by taxpayers and part of the social contract, we want to have a safety net to help people who need help but we do need to know that people are actively trying to look for work.

“And if we can do that we can change the deal and by the way we already are, that is why unemployment has fallen by a million since 2010 which is very significant.

“But it is one example of the kind of difficult decisions we are willing to take… in order to make sure that we have faster growth which is what we all want if we are going to pay for public services like the NHS and our schools.”

Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, prepares for a TV interview in Manchester this morning
Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, prepares for a TV interview in Manchester this morning - Hannah McKay /Reuters

07:55 AM BST

Chancellor 'can't say when it will be possible' to cut taxes

Michael Gove said yesterday that he would like to see the tax burden reduced before the next general election, widely expected to take place next year.

Jeremy Hunt was asked this morning if that would be possible. The Chancellor did not rule it out but said he was unsure when the economic picture would allow for tax cuts.

He told Times Radio: “We would all love to see taxes cut and as a Conservative facing an election I believe in lowering taxes but we don’t know whether that is going to be possible before the next election.

“At the moment, as I look at the national finances, our debt interest payments are much higher than they were in the Spring Budget because of long term interest rates, interest rate projections, being higher.

“But if we are prepared to walk this difficult path, it is possible to bring down taxes and we won’t hesitate to do that but we can’t say when it will be possible to do that.” 

07:52 AM BST

High tax burden 'doesn't have to be permanent', says Hunt

Jeremy Hunt said announcing “big tax cuts” now would be “inflationary”.

However, the Chancellor also said he believed the tax burden does not have to be permanently at a high level.

Asked if it was too soon for some Tories to demand tax cuts given the economic chaos of last October in the wake of the mini-Budget, Mr Hunt told Times Radio: “What I would say to them is if we want faster growth and an end to taxes ever ratcheting higher, it is possible to do that but there are no short cuts.

“At the moment if we had big tax cuts they would be inflationary because we would be putting extra money into people’s pockets, they would spend it and that would push up prices.

“The fastest way that we can help struggling families now is to deliver the Prime Minister’s pledge to halve inflation. That is, as he said yesterday, that is not a 1p cut in income tax, that is actually a 5p boost in incomes.

“But if we are prepared to take difficult decisions to make it easier for companies to grow, to spend taxpayers’ money more carefully, to reform the welfare state… then it is possible to do that. I don’t agree with people like the Institute for Fiscal Studies who say that this shift to a more highly taxed economy is likely to be permanent.

“It doesn’t have to be permanent. You have to take the difficult decisions and with Rishi Sunak you have a Prime Minister who is willing to take those difficult decisions.”

07:47 AM BST

'No tax cuts are possible in a substantial way at the moment'

Jeremy Hunt appeared to rule out slashing inheritance tax as he stressed no tax cuts are currently possible.

Asked about a potential cut to death duties, the Chancellor told GB News: “I’m basically saying that I don’t think it’s going to be possible to do any big tax cuts.

“On the basis first of all of the public finances as we see them because our debt interest payments have gone up a lot, but also because it would compromise our battle against inflation.”

Pressed again on whether he was ruling it out, he said “no tax cuts are possible in a substantial way at the moment”.

“It’s not just inheritance tax, it’s income tax, it’s all the different taxes that people look at,” he said.

07:44 AM BST

Jeremy Hunt: Now is 'not the right time' for tax cuts

Jeremy Hunt said it is “not the right time” for tax cuts as they would fuel inflation.

Asked how the Conservatives can win the next election without slashing taxes, the Chancellor told GB News: “The way you win elections is by making promises that people believe. And we are being very honest with people, there is no shortcut to tax cuts.

“We’ve got to be more efficient with the way we spend taxpayers’ money and I’ll be talking about that today.

“If I gave a big tax cut this year, it would be inflationary because you’d be putting money in people’s pockets which would boost up demand, which would ultimately mean prices go up as well. So this is not the right time.

“But as a Conservative, do I want to bring down taxes? Yes, I do. And what I’ll be saying is we’re prepared to take the tough and difficult decisions for the long term that mean that we do have a lower taxed economy and with Rishi Sunak you have a leader who doesn’t shy away from those difficult decisions.”

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