What were the main announcements from Rishi Sunak's Tory Party Conference speech?
Sunak made major announcements on HS2, education and smoking laws during his party conference speech.
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The Prime Minister's main announcements were no surprise to anyone, given that many had been leaked in advance of the speech.
Here's everything you need to know about what the PM announced in his party conference speech.
What were the main announcements from Rishi Sunak's speech?
It was the world’s worst kept secret in the run-up to the Tory Party Conference in none other than Manchester. Rumours had swirled for days about the potential future (or lack thereof) for the controversial HS2 railway line.
As he took to the stage the PM confirmed that indeed the northern leg of the HS2 train line would be scrapped after telling the audience gathered that “facts have changed”. He added: “The right thing to do when the facts change is to have the courage to change direction.”
He also confirmed that the existing HS2 line will terminate in London Euston. Reports prior to the conference suggested that the government could be considering ending the line at Old Oak Common on the outskirts of west London.
Work on the Birmingham to Manchester link of the planned route has now been cancelled, with Sunak claiming that the decision will save £36bn, which will be reinvested in improving transport networks across the country.
He announced the launch of the ‘Network North’ project, which will focus on improvements to roads, railways and bus schemes. Some of those new projects announced under the scheme include:
£2 billion for a new station at Bradford and a new connection to Manchester.
£2.5 billion to deliver a new tram system in Leeds.
£3 billion for upgraded and electrified lines between Manchester and Sheffield; Sheffield and Leeds; Sheffield and Hull; and Hull and Leeds.
A further £12bn will be set aside to improve rail connectivity between Manchester and Liverpool.
Other improvement schemes proposed for the rest of the country include upgrading the A75 between Gretna and Stranraer to improve links to Northern Ireland, keeping the £2 bus fare cap in place for all of England and electrifying the North Wales Main Line.
In a major shake-up of the education system, Sunak made a major announcement surrounding the future of A-levels and T-levels.
Sunak told the conference that the new ‘Advance British Standard’ qualification will replace the two qualifications. The new qualification baccalaureate-style for 16-year-olds and 19-year-olds will in-effect combine both of the levels.
In addition to this, the PM reiterated his plans to make Maths and English compulsory to the age of 18 for school pupils.
The plans are lofty however, with aides admitting that it could take 10 years for the schemes to be fully implemented.
In a bid to make smoking inaccessible to a whole new generation, the PM announced that the UK plans to adopt a New Zealand-style approach to smoking laws, which will see the smoking age rise by one year, every year. He said that the make was a bid to create a “smoke-free generation”.
The new proposed legislation will mean that anyone born on or after January 1 2009 will no longer be able to buy tobacco products. However, it will mean that smoking isn’t banned for older existing smokers.
Sunak also announced that he will crack down on vaping, a look at legislation around advertising, flavours and packaging which makes the tobacco products attractive to children. H also singled out the availability of disposable vapes in his speech.