Priti Patel and Nigel Farage dance at Tory Party conference
Rishi Sunak is expected to finally confirm he will scrap the HS2 rail link to Manchester as Tory MPs are divided over the home secretary’s controversial speech.
Weeks afterThe Independent revealed he wanted to axe the northern leg of the line, the prime minister is set to confirm it as part of a speech today in which he will also attack the last 30 years of “broken politics”.
He will argue he is the political leader to take the tough decisions necessary for the good of the country, while also accusing Labour of wanting “power for the sake of power” and being “everything that is wrong with our politics”.
It comes as Suella Braverman’s fiery speech on Tuesday has divided opinions after she attracted comparisons to Enoch Powell for claiming a “hurricane” of immigration would sweep across Britain.
Grant Shapps rushed to her defence as the Cabinet minister told Times Radio this morning, saying, “she makes the absolutely correct point we’ve already seen a lot of movement,” while Alicia Kearns, the Conservative MP who chairs the foreign affairs select committee, said Ms Braverman had “crossed the line”.
What time is Rishi Sunak’s conference speech today? And how can you watch it?
As well as curtailing the HS2 project, Mr Sunak will use his speech to criticise 30 years of a “broken” system incentivising “the easy decision, not the right one”.
Maryam Zakir-Hussain4 October 2023 09:05
From smoking ban to A Levels, what major policies will Sunak announce today?
The focus here in Manchester is on what’s happening with HS2, but we’re also expecting other major policy announcements in Rishi Sunak’s big speech to conference.
The prime minister is expected to announce a ban on smoking for future generations, as previously trailed last month.
The policy would see the legal age of buying cigarettes gradually increased every year, effectively banning their sale to people under a certain age.
Similar measures were approved in New Zealand last December meaning tobacco could never be sold to anyone born after 1 January 2009.
The Times also reports that he will move to reform A-levels by increasing the number of subjects pupils can take, and their teaching hours.
The government points to figures showing A-level students are taught for between 16 and 20 hours a week, compared with 26 hours in some other countries.
Maryam Zakir-Hussain4 October 2023 08:57
‘It’s a Westminster problem’- Aslef on train strikes
The government is to blame for long-running rail strikes which have left travellers facing another day of disruption, according to Aslef’s general secretary Mick Whelan.
Speaking at the picket line outside Euston station in central London, he said: “We don’t have a problem in Scotland. We don’t have a problem in Wales.
“We don’t have a problem in freight or Eurostar or with all the other companies. It is a Westminster political problem caused by Westminster.”
Maryam Zakir-Hussain4 October 2023 08:53
Speaking on BBC Breakfast the defence secretary expanded on his comments, adding: “HS2 trains will run to Manchester, so they’ll still come into Manchester Piccadilly, they’ll still run to Leeds, there will still be a much faster journey time than there has been in the past.
“And not just because some of the section will be actually conventional high speed, or new high speed rail, but also because even the older section can have further upgrades to, for example, its digital infrastructure which is the way the signalling works.”
And he said cash from cutting Manchester’s line would be reallocated to have “benefits across large parts of the North”, though he did not specify what these were.
HS2 trains were already expected to continue on existing line beyond Birmingham while future phases were to be completed – a feature of the project from the start.
Maryam Zakir-Hussain4 October 2023 08:41
Watch: Grant Shapps on HS2 being scrapped: ‘That may be true’
A Cabinet minister has officially confirmed that Rishi Sunak will make an announcement about HS2 during his speech to Tory conference today.
Speaking during a broadcast interview Grant Shapps said listeners could be “pretty confident” of an announcement on the rail line.
“I know it’s much anticipated and lots of people have have said that there’ll be something with HS2 in it. I think we can be pretty confident that will be heard,” he told Times Radio.
Ministers have previously said on the record that an announcement would be made “in due course”.
Grant Shapps on HS2 being scrapped: ‘That may be true’
Maryam Zakir-Hussain4 October 2023 08:30
Alicia Kearns criticises Braverman’s speech
Alicia Kearns MP took particular issue with the Home Secretary’s claim in an earlier speech in the US that people were pretending to be gay to be granted asylum in Britain.
“LGBT+ people were singled out by the home secretary,” she told Times Radio.
“When you look at the figures in 2021, only 1.5 per cent of all asylum applications referenced sexuality. How are we worried about the 1.5 per cent when the other vast, vast majority is actually what we should be looking at.
“And that for me is the kind of example where why are we singling out LGBT+ people when we should be focusing on the vast, vast majority?”
Maryam Zakir-Hussain4 October 2023 08:20
Suella Braverman’s controversial speech at Tory Party conference divides MPs
A controversial speech given by home secretary Suella Braverman on Tuesday is dividing opinions at Tory conference in Manchester.
The home secretary has attracted comparisons to Enoch Powell after she claimed a “hurricane” of immigration would sweep across Britain.
One defender is Defence Secretary Grant Shapps. The Cabinet minister told Times Radio this morning: “She makes the absolutely correct point we’ve already seen a lot of movement… we could see a lot more, a hurricane, as she describes it, of people moving.”
Ms Braverman had claimed that “millions” of people would arrive in the UK, adding: “The wind of change that carried my own parents across the globe in the 20th century was a mere gust compared to the hurricane that is coming.”
She also criticised organisations for adopting LGBT-inclusive policies, branding them “woke” – a term of derision used by right-wingers online.
But other Conservatives criticised the Home Secretary. One was Andrew Boff, the leader of the Conservatives on the London Assembly. He was escorted out of the hall after speaking out of turn and saying there was “no such thing as gender ideology”.
And elsewhere Alicia Kearns, the Conservative MP who chairs the foreign affairs select committee, said Ms Braverman had “crossed the line”.
Maryam Zakir-Hussain4 October 2023 08:08
Greater Manchester mayor says HS2 scrapping is ‘not a workable plan’
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said the latest plan to cut the Manchester to Birmingham leg of HS2 is “not a workable plan” and there is “huge frustration and growing anger in Greater Manchester”.
He told BBC Breakfast: “It’s so frustrating. It just proves there’s still so many people in politics, many of them in the Tory party, that think they can treat the north of England differently to the way they treat other parts of the country it’s just so wrong.
“I’ve been in politics 30 years, I’ve never seen a party come to a conference and leave an axe hanging over the place they’re in for the whole week. And then actually drop it on that place.
“I just don’t think it’s fair to people in Greater Manchester to do this and the plan that they’re putting forward, that we’ve only seen briefed overnight because we haven’t even been told what it is, takes trains off HS2 at Birmingham and puts them on the existing tracks of the West Coast Mainline that just simply isn’t going to work.
“It’s not a workable plan and you know, you can understand why there is just huge frustration and indeed growing anger in Greater Manchester about this.”
Maryam Zakir-Hussain4 October 2023 07:57
Sunak set to use speech today to confirm HS2 scrapping- part two
Labour’s shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh this morning pointed to the government’s own documents, which say: “Parliament has already approved plans for building HS2 Phases One and 2a, bringing a new high speed line from London to Crewe.
“Once completed, these sections of HS2 will reduce Manchester-London journey times to 91 minutes from typically 126 minutes today, based on the indicative trains service.
“However, the 200 metre HS2 trains that can operate in Phase 2a will not provide more capacity into Manchester compared with the current Pendolino fleet, and there is no capacity for additional trains into the city.
“Only when a new line and new platforms at Manchester Piccadilly are built can more services including both [Northern Powerhouse Rail] and 400m HS2 services be accommodated.
“Journey times between Birmingham and Manchester are currently poor compared with speeds to the capital. No improvement is possible without additional track capacity into Manchester, given the need to serve intermediate towns as well.”
Ms Haigh added: “The Conservatives literally rubbished this idea in their own rail plan.
And Greater Manchester warned it could actually make things worse by increasing delays on the West Coast Mainline.
“Only the Conservatives could draw up a plan that could actually make northern transport worse than before.”
Maryam Zakir-Hussain4 October 2023 07:52
Sunak set to use speech today to confirm HS2 scrapping- part one
Rishi Sunak looks set to use his big Tory conference speech today to confirm what The Independent revealed last month – and scrap phase 2 of HS2, running into Manchester.
As reported yesterday, the London section from Old Oak Common to Euston appears to have had a stay of execution and will be built.
Whatever the merits of building to Euston, the prime minister is likely to face a backlash and accusations that he is again prioritising the capital at the expense of the north of England – despite a manifesto pledge to level-up.
Overnight, government sources went into spin mode and briefed some journalists that high-speed trains would still run from London to Manchester – but move onto existing lines past Birmingham.
But this had always been the temporary plan for services after the construction of phase 1, while phase 2 was being completed.
Maryam Zakir-Hussain4 October 2023 07:51