Major infrastructure projects, including a major high-speed rail line in the north of England, are under consideration as new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tries to find £50billion in savings and of tax increases.
Business Secretary Grant Shapps has hinted Northern Powerhouse Rail will be cut back, amid confusion over the commitment to a new nuclear power station in Suffolk.
A senior Treasury source stressed they were rethinking “all capital spending” after an official told the BBC: “We are looking at every major project – including Sizewell C.”
Others, along with Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy sources, insisted Sizewell C was not being scrapped or delayed.
A government spokesman said they were ‘looking to approve at least one full-scale nuclear project within the next few years’. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak are seeking sweeping cuts that can be made ahead of the November 17 budget, as the Bank of England warns of the longest recession on record.
In the manifesto by which the Conservatives won the 2019 election, the party promised to build the Northern Powerhouse Rail between Leeds and Manchester.
Liz Truss backed that line during her record short term as prime minister, while Boris Johnson also bragged about his achievement in his farewell speech from Downing Street.
However, Shapps told the BBC: “The line itself can deliver a 33-minute journey from Manchester to Leeds, almost quadruple the capacity of that line, and do it without having to wait another 20 years beyond the delivery of what the upgrade can do. do.
“There really wasn’t much point in digging new tunnels through the Pennines. It’s not true to say that we don’t realize what we said we would do to level the North.
Meanwhile, Downing Street has said it is committed to the ‘integrated rail plan’ but Transport Secretary Mark Harper will look at how high-speed services are delivered.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to the integrated rail plan which delivers a high-speed line and transport improvements in the North and the Government believes this approach will deliver these benefits sooner than under other plans.
“There are a number of options for how we provide these high-speed services in Leeds, for example, and the Transport Secretary is looking at them closely.”
Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh has accused the government of ‘crashing the economy’ and then making the North pay for the fallout.
“A lost decade of broken Conservative promises has left the North with second-rate infrastructure and rail services in crisis, dampening the economy,” she said.
“Rishi Sunak told voters he would deliver Northern Powerhouse Rail, before abandoning it at the first opportunity. This Conservative government has no mandate, no platform and no plan – it destroyed the economy and now it wants northern communities to pay the price.
Negotiations over the multi-billion Sizewell C project – which is due to be built northeast of Ipswich – are said to be underway, with energy company EDF behind the construction. Johnson had pledged £700m in taxpayer funding to the project in his last policy speech in early September this year.
Energy independence is also at the heart of the government’s concerns due to Russia’s war in Ukraine, which makes scrapping the project an unpleasant choice for the new leadership, who would also face questions about how to manage it. achieve net zero goals without nuclear investment.
A government spokesman insisted that providing “infrastructure to improve the daily lives of millions of people” remains “a priority”.
They added: “HS2 is underway, on budget and supporting 28,000 jobs, we are also looking to approve at least one large-scale nuclear project over the next few years and aim to accelerate delivery of approximately 100 large infrastructure projects across Britain.”
Shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband warned that removing Sizewell C could deepen the cost of living crisis compounded by spiraling energy bills: “If the government turns its back on this project, it will sever all the promises he made and will undermine our vital nuclear industry.
Unions have also sounded the alarm, with GMB national secretary Andy Prendergast warning: “Any decision to withdraw support from Sizewell C would be catastrophic – we could really see the lights in the UK go out.
The UK’s financial outlook has also worsened, with the Bank of England raising interest rates for the eighth consecutive time from 2.25% to 3% on Thursday – the biggest increase since 1989.
Other measures being considered by the new chancellor include an increase in capital gains tax on the sale of assets such as stocks or bonds.
The job of government has been made more difficult following the disastrous mini-budget launched by Truss and former Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng.
Questions remain for members of Sunak’s government, his police minister Chris Philp having served as chief secretary to the Treasury under Kwarteng.
Speaking to ‘BBC Breakfast’ this morning (Friday November 4), Philp refused to apologize for his role in the financial state which sparked turmoil in financial markets and threatened the UK economy.
Instead, he sought maximum blame for Truss, telling the BBC show: ‘Decisions on the mini-budget were taken mainly by the Prime Minister at the time and, to a lesser extent, by the Chancellor at the time.
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