Sunak vows to make UK ‘science superpower’ as Truss reveals plan to ‘unlock West Midlands’

Politics

Rishi Sunak vowed to make Britain a “science superpower” while Liz Truss pledged to put the West Midlands “at the heart of our economic revival” in their latest policy announcements.

The Tory leadership contenders are continuing to set out their visions for the country as the leadership race enters its final fortnight, with the pair set to go head to head at a tenth hustings in Birmingham on Tuesday night.

Ahead of the event, the former chancellor pledged to create a “better UK alternative” to the EU’s flagship research programme Horizon Europe.

It comes after the government launched legal action over “persistent delays” to access the bloc’s scientific programmes following Brexit, in the latest row to engulf the two sides.

The Sunak campaign accused the EU of dithering and “playing politics” on Horizon – the bloc’s key funding programme for research and innovation.

Allies of Mr Sunak said that while his administration would continue to push for the UK’s inclusion in the multibillion-euro project, the move will show that the UK is willing to walk away from “EU politicking”.

They said the new rival scheme will be paid for with the money the UK would normally send to the EU for participation in Horizon.

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Mr Sunak also said he will “turbocharge clinical innovation” by making the UK’s approval system for clinical trials easier to navigate.

Another proposal would see local councils encouraged to put forward empty commercial and industrial space that could instead be used for laboratories.

Mr Sunak said: “My plan will secure our status as a science and technology superpower, providing opportunity and spreading prosperity in every part of our United Kingdom.”

Meanwhile, leadership rival Ms Truss sought to win over Tory party members in the West Midlands with a promise to put the region “at the heart of our economic revival” if she becomes prime minister.

She said this will be achieved through her plans for lower taxes, better regulation and supply-side reform.

Ms Truss also pledged to deliver key infrastructure projects including the Midlands Rail Hub, and support West Midlands Mayor Andy Street to deliver the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill metro extension in full.

She said she would also put the government’s full weight behind efforts to bring a battery gigafactory to the region.

Ms Truss said the West Midlands “can play a critical role in a new economic revolution in Britain”.

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The promises come as Mr Sunak and Ms Truss prepare to face an audience of 1,000 Tory party members in Birmingham on Tuesday night, in a hustings event hosted by Times Radio.

There are just two weeks to go until a new prime minister is chosen on 5 September.

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Rishi Sunak backer Kevin Hollinrake says that lowering taxes is not the answer to the problems facing the poorest in society.

Earlier today, Mr Sunak accused Liz Truss of “promising the earth to everybody” as he played down polling suggesting he is set to be defeated by the foreign secretary.

He also hinted he would not take a job in her cabinet following reports he could be made Health Secretary, saying ministers “need to agree on the big things”.

The race to succeed Mr Johnson has become increasingly heated, with the two rivals clashing repeatedly over how to handle the cost of living crisis.

Energy regulator Ofgem is set to announce the latest price cap on Friday, with predictions it could rise from £1,971 to around £3,600.

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