Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson have written to Conservative Progress supporters and BluePrint readers to outline their plans for the Conservative Party and the country. Today, we share Jeremy's letter with you.
Dear Conservative Progress supporters,
Firstly, let me thank you for the warm reception you gave me at the Conservative Progress Conference last month. It was a real pleasure to address so many informed and passionate activists, and to answer your questions. The success our party has in delivering security and opportunity for the whole country depends on your hard work and commitment. Now that we have entered the final stage of the contest, with ballot papers arriving, I wanted to take this opportunity to address you again and set out why I'm asking for your vote.
I believe this campaign is fundamentally about who members trust to deliver Brexit. This has dragged on for far too long, and our failure to deliver on the democratic decision of the British people is doing huge damage to our country. The quickest way, the safest way, and the most secure way to leave the EU is with a good deal. The alternative route – leaving without a deal – is one I have always said I would be willing to do if it was the only way to deliver Brexit.
But it comes with risks of parliament intervening, delaying and stopping Brexit, prompting an election and leaving us with Jeremy Corbyn, like we saw in Peterborough. All those of you who took part in the European Elections or Peterborough by-election will know the full risk we would face. We cannot have another general election until we have delivered the Brexit we promised at the last election.
And so fellow members need to ask themselves who they think is most likely to get that new deal with Brussels. This needs to be a deal which does not leave us at risk of being trapped in the customs union indefinitely, and which gives us back control including an independent trade policy.
As an entrepreneur who has been doing business deals all his life; an experienced Cabinet Minister who has negotiated a BBC Licence Fee, the junior doctors’ contract and peace talks in the Yemen; and a Foreign Secretary with good relationships with European leaders; I believe I am that candidate.
But we also have to prepare for the possibility the European Union refuses to budge. We cannot leave the European Union on a wing and a prayer, or by being flippant about the risks of no deal. I have therefore set out a Brexit Delivery Plan including: a No Deal Cabinet Task Force and a No Deal Relief Programme including a £6bn fund for farming and fishing sectors.
As Prime Minister I will make a judgement on 30th September as to whether there is a realistic chance of a new deal being agreed that can pass the House of Commons. If so, I will seek to conclude negotiations and pass necessary legislation. If not, as a responsible Prime Minister I will cease negotiations and focus the whole country on No Deal preparations.
Turbo-charging our economy
My main priority after securing our exit from the European Union is to turbo-charge our economy. As an entrepreneur who started their own business and ended up employing 200 people I know how hard it is to run a business. But I also know how incredibly rewarding and exciting it can be.
My Government would prioritise supporting business because it is the wealth creators in our society who generate tax revenues that support our public services. I would therefore cut corporation tax to 12.5%, increase the annual investment allowance from £1m to £5m, and take 90% of high street companies out of business rates altogether. I set up my business when I was young, and I believe the government should support those who do the same. So I would cancel the tuition fee debts of young entrepreneurs who run successful start-ups.
We need to send a loud and clear signal to Europe and the whole world, that Britain is hungry for investment and hungry for our economic success. We Conservatives have always understood that the fundamental requirement of power and influence abroad, and social progress at home, is having a successful enterprise economy.
Winning back the support of young people
When we leave the European Union, a huge set of opportunities awaits our country. But we, the party of aspiration, need to work harder to win back the support of the most aspirational members of our society – young people.
I joined the Conservative party aged 19, because my dreams then were to start a business, own my own home, save for a family and bring them up in a free and secure country. Those are still the dreams of young people today, and they are still at the heart of Conservative values.
We must make the abolition of illiteracy our next great social mission, to ensure every young person has the skills they need to get a well-paid job. This means reversing the cuts to school budgets and delivering a proper plan to deliver measurable improvements over the long term. For graduates I have promised to reduce the excessive interest rates on student loans, while making sure our world-renowned universities are properly funded.
On home ownership, I would build an additional 1.5 million homes over five years. I would introduce a new permitted development right called Build Up Not Out, to allow developers in urban areas to build up to 5 or 6 stories. And I would introduce a new Right to Own to ensure that young people get the homes they need. Through this scheme we will support 1.5m more people, many of them young buyers, to own their own home.
We must also prove to young people that we will preserve our planet for future generations. We have already made decent progress as we are well on our way to phasing out coal entirely by 2025 and we will end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040. I am proud to have made climate change policy central to my work as Foreign Secretary, and I am delighted we have recently reached an agreement on hosting the UN’s major international climate change conference, COP26, next year, five years after the Paris summit.
As Prime Minister, I would ensure we lead the world on the global stage, but I would go further at home too and have already announced plans to introduce a Clean Air Act to give local authorities the power and funding to introduce pollution free cities. I would also fund the roll out of a national network of 2.5 million electric charging points.
Strengthening our precious Union
I am a Unionist to my fingertips: I have Welsh and Irish blood in me and I spent a couple of very happy years of my childhood in Scotland. My approach is both to respect the fully devolved settlements and to showcase the benefits of the Union at every opportunity. We should shout louder about the positive investments and the jobs the UK Government is already delivering. We should do more to encourage local economies through bigger and better City Deals.
When it comes to Scotland, we were complacent in the run up to the referendum on independence, and we have frankly been complacent since. To address this, we must firstly ensure a form of Brexit which works to strengthen, not sever our precious Union. I have made clear that representatives from the Scottish and Welsh Conservatives will feature in my reshaped negotiating team. After Brexit, we need Government to become an unrelenting campaigning machine for promotion of the Union across the four nations.
I am keen to support further devolution, including more directly elected mayors, and greater devolution of public services and funding. At a national level, I believe it’s time we reached a more permanent settlement about the balance of powers and responsibilities rather than the change and uncertainty which has too long impacted our constitution. And for our party members in each corner of our country, we must do much more to directly engage them in our party and in our decision making.
The UK walking tall in the world
I have visited dozens of countries in my time as Foreign Secretary and it’s clear that there are many parts of the world where Britain is needed to defend the freedoms and democratic values which we have always championed. With a more confrontational Russia, a more assertive China, and an increasingly challenging relationship with Iran, we need to maintain our position as a global power. The security and freedom of other countries, as well as our own, relies on us being willing to stand up for western values.
I have therefore promised to increase defence spending from the current 2% of GDP to 2.5%, vital to boosting and projecting British power and influence globally, at a time when our prosperity and security face a unique series of dangers. This will also hopefully act as a catalyst to encourage higher levels of defence spending by other European and NATO Allies. Alongside our 0.7% development commitment, we will ensure an assertive United Kingdom which walks tall in the world.
To do all this, we need to deliver Brexit and bring our party back together. Your support in doing that will be incredibly important.
With very best wishes
Jeremy Hunt MP