Why I will put a Northern Powerhouse minister in the Cabinet if I become PM, promises Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt
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The Northern Powerhouse will be represented at the Cabinet table if Jeremy Hunt becomes Prime Minister, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.

In an exclusive interview, the Conservative leadership contender set out his vision for the North as he stepped up his efforts to outmanoeuvre Boris Johnson in the race for Number 10.

Ahead of a leadership hustings in York this Thursday, when both hopefuls will set out their case to the region’s Tory members, Mr Hunt vowed to make the Conservatives “a party for the whole country,”

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The Foreign Secretary said the Tories could no longer focus solely on London and the South East and pledged to be a Prime Minister that would “support the regeneration of the North”.

And he revealed that the Northern Powerhouse agenda would be installed at the heart of his Cabinet.

He said: “I am absolutely committed to having a Cabinet Minister with responsibility for the Northern Powerhouse.

“I want to be completely honest with you - I don’t think it would be possible for anyone to have that as someone’s only job because there are strict limits on the number of Cabinet Ministers you can have but I think it is very important that someone has that in their job title.

“I think we need to have a Cabinet Minister who is specifically accountable for making sure the Northern Powerhouse takes off.”

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The historic pledge comes on the back of last month’s Power Up the North campaign by The Yorkshire Post, alongside 32 other publications, which demanded a detailed vision for the future of the region from Westminster’s political leaders.

The initiative called for a bespoke Industrial Strategy as well as greater commitments on devolution, transport, housing and digital infrastructure.

Asked why Northern voters should back him over his leadership rival, Mr Hunt said: “It’s very straightforward. I support the regeneration of the North - no ifs, no buts.”

He also threw his weight behind two key transport projects - HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail - which would secure significant investment for the region.

“I have been clear from the outset that I back HS2 and that I back Northern Powerhouse Rail and that my Conservative vision is one where I back prosperity throughout the whole country...

“We have to be a party for the whole country and I think one of the most exciting things in British politics over the last five years has been that instead of talking about the North-South divide, we have actually been talking about projects that can bridge the divide and eliminate it."

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Setting out his other priorities, Mr Hunt said a ten-year-plan for social care would be at the top of his list if he beats Mr Johnson to Number Ten.

He said: “My gran died when she was 100 - just a few months before her 101st birthday and I was very close to her and I remember what it was like in the last year of her life. It was incredibly uncomfortable losing her bodily functions one by one.

“And as Conservatives we want every older person to be treated with dignity and respect in those final few months and years of their life. So, I was responsible formally for the social care system for my last six months as Health Secretary.

“I secured funding for a ten-year plan for the NHS, as pretty much the last thing that I did and next on my list was to get a ten-year-plan for the social care system and I am absolutely committed to that because under me a Conservative Government will always have a social mission as well as an economic mission.”