Rishi Sunak sought to reset his leadership after a challenging first year. He emphasised the need to fix Britain's 'broken' politics, particularly following party disputes and speculations about HS2. He expressed frustration at politicians who talk more than they act and introduced new policies to distinguish himself from predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.
- The major announcement confirmed the scrapping HS2's northern leg between Birmingham and Manchester after its costs doubled.
- This decision came after leaked discussions between Sunak and his chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, regarding the future of the high-speed rail project.
- Notably, figures like Boris Johnson, Theresa May, David Cameron, and George Osborne criticised this scaling back, with London mayor Sadiq Khan cautioning it could ridicule Britain.
- West Midlands mayor Andy Street contemplated resigning over this.
- Sunak plans to use the £36bn saved to fund numerous new transport ventures in the north and the Midlands.
Smoking Ban for Future Generations
- Sunak announced an innovative ban wherein the legal age to purchase cigarettes would increase annually.
- Effectively, this would mean that a 14-year-old today can never buy cigarettes legally in Britain.
- This initiative mirrors a policy adopted by New Zealand last year.
- Additional measures to limit vape availability to children were hinted at, including restrictions on flavours, packaging, and disposable vapes.
Education Reform - A-levels
- Sunak unveiled plans to merge A-levels and T-levels into a single qualification named the "Advanced British Standard."
- Under this, students would study subjects like maths and English up to age 18, increasing the number of subjects studied from three to five.
- Furthermore, 16 to 19-year-olds would spend more time being instructed by teachers.
- A bonus scheme to attract and retain teachers was also proposed.
- Notably, this education overhaul represents a significant move into areas traditionally addressed by the Labour party.
Life Sentences for Heinous Crimes
- Sunak affirmed that certain crimes, particularly sexual and sadistic murders, are so grievous that perpetrators should face life imprisonment without the possibility of release.
Benefits System Overhaul:
- Sunak pointed out the unfairness of over 2 million working-age individuals deemed incapable of working, emphasising the strain on taxpayers and the missed potential of those sidelined.
- He highlighted plans by the Department for Work and Pensions to revise the Work Capability Assessment. The focus is on devising strategies to support sick and disabled individuals to re-enter the workforce, potentially through jobs that can be executed remotely.
In summary, Rishi Sunak's conference speech covered major policy areas, from transportation and health to education and criminal justice, indicating a desire to redefine the party's vision and policies moving forward.
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